NATIONAL Rugby League’s prolific try scorer and South Sydney Rabbitohs flyer Alex Johnston, along with Melbourne Storm duo Justin Olam and Xavier Coates, will spearhead the Kumuls backline in the upcoming Rugby League World Cup
campaign in England.
Johnston arrived in Port Moresby on Monday afternoon to join the Kumuls camp, a few hours after Kumuls coach Stanley Tepend officially named his 24-man squad for the World Cup campaign from Oct 15-Nov 19 in England.
The Kumul No.294 was named at fullback and is one of only three players with NRL experience, along with Storm powerhouse centre Olam and Queensland State of Origin winger Coates.
The NRL aces are primed to be a threat to other nations in the world cup along with Leigh Centurions trio Nene MacDonald, Edwin Ipape and Lachlan Lam. Their experience will boost the Kumuls backline.
“Most of the guys picked have played (together) before,” Tepend said.
“I think the important thing is the spine. Johnston, Kyle Laybutt, Coates and Ipape have been in top form. They will naturally lead the team on game days.
“Olam is one of the best centres in the world. So they’ll lead and naturally they should inspire.”
The Rabbitohs winger who qualifies for the Kumuls through a PNG-born grandmother, made his Test debut in 2019 against the Great Britain Lions at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.
The try scoring machine also featured in the Kumuls 24-14 victory over the Fiji Batis in this year’s mid-year Test at Campbelltown Sports Ground in Sydney.
A top finisher in the NRL, Johnston has set a record for most tries in a season since 2020.
The Ken Irvine medalist, who hauled in 30 tries this season in Australia’s premier competition, will be a valuable asset for the squad.
The 27-year-old sustained a hip flexor injury in the semifinal win over the Cronulla Sharks and was ruled out in the preliminary finals in which Rabbitohs lost to Penrith Panthers 12-32.
Johnston is the only member in the Kumuls squad who is still nursing an injury.
“All the players picked haven’t got any injuries except for Johnston,” Tepend said.
The coach said Johnston missed Souths preliminary final against Penrith but had been recovering over the last two weeks and would be good to play come in PNG’s opening Pool D fixture against Tonga on Wed, Oct 19 (PNG time).
Source : The National / The Kumuls
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Downer Rugby League 9s World Cup
- PNG Kumuls 0 Australia 26
- PNG Kumuls 18 New Zealand Kiwis 18
- PNG Kumuls 23 USA Tomahawks 10
Pacific Test Results
2019 - PNG Kumuls 28 Great Britain Lions 10
2019 - Fiji Bati 22 PNG Kumuls 20
2019 - PNG Kumls 6 Samoa 24
2018 - PNG Kumuls 26 Fiji Bati 14
2017 - PNG Kumuls 32 Cook Islands 22
2016 - PNG Kumuls 24 Fiji Bati 22
2015- Fiji Bati 22 PNG Kumuls 22
World Cup Results
Round 1 : PNG Kumuls 50 Wales 6
Round 2: PNG Kumuls 14 Ireland 6
Round 3 PNG Kumuls 64 USA 0
Quarter Finals : PNG Kumuls 6 England 36