Main content

Walker brothers beaming as Kumuls coaches

Since former NRL brothers Ben and Shane Walker joined the Papua New Guinea squad as assistant coaches, they haven't stopped laughing.

The pair will coach the Ipswich Jets in the Queensland Cup next season, and through a mutual sponsor of the club and the PNG national side, they were approached about assisting Kumuls head coach Stanley Gene for the Four Nations tournament.

The two older brothers of former Test and Origin flyer Chris Walker - Ben played a 12-season career for Brisbane, Northern Eagles, Manly, Souths and in England, while Shane also managed more than 150 matches in the NRL for the Broncos and Rabbitohs.

Ben got a taste of what he was in for in Kumuls camp back in 1997, when he travelled to PNG with the Broncos' Super League team.

He remembers walking out of the hotel with Allan Langer and within seconds being followed down the street by hundreds of locals.

It's this unbridled enthusiasm for rugby league that has had the brothers smiling from ear to ear since becoming "white Kumuls" last week.

"I can't explain how much fun we've had. I haven't stopped laughing since last Friday. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, you're bloody laughing, it's hilarious," Ben said.

"I played there in a trial match in 1997 and that was a fantastic experience. We warmed up at the hotel, jumped on the bus, and if there were 20,000 people at the game, there was 100,000 on the street.

"They're really passionate about it, and a lot of these guys actually play in PNG, so it's a big experience for them. They love their footy.

"I think they love having us around, they call us `the white Kumuls', so that's an honour."

The Walkers have already started to pick up pidgin and are quickly growing in their appreciation of the natural talent of the PNG locals.

The Four Nations which begins for the Kumuls against Australia on Sunday, is being viewed by the Walker brothers as valuable experience for their fledgling coaching careers.

And the tournament could also have longer-lasting benefits for both coaches and players, with a couple of Kumuls now on Ipswich's radar for next year's Queensland Cup season.

"At the Jets, we've already spoken to one of the boys, who is willing to come on board. We might look at a couple more," said Ben, who is adamant the Kumuls won't be overawed by the Australians.

"They're raw talent, they really are. A lot of them don't start until they're 16 or 17, where as with us as kids, I started when I was five.

"They're natural athletes ... some of the guys only started doing weights three weeks ago, so they're incredibly strong.

"If they had some sort of junior development program coming through, they'd be an incredibly strong nation as seniors.

"There's not a word that we say they don't listen to ... they've got all the right ingredients to be a good footballing nation, so there's no reason why they can't."

Send to a friend:
Your Name:
Your Email:
Friend's Name:
Friend's Email:
loading image needs to go here