NRL premiership winning mentor Shane Flanagan will work with newly appointed Papua New Guinea coach Stanley Tepend to prepare the Kumuls for the upcoming Pacific Test against Fiji and end-of-season World Cup in England.
Tepend, who guided Lae Snax Tigers to six premierships in the PNG domestic competition before joining the coaching staff of the PNG Hunters in the Queensland Cup, will take over from Michael Marum after six years as his assistant.
Flanagan, who took Cronulla to their inaugural premiership in 2016 and is currently engaged as a list management consultant with St George Illawarra, will support and advise Tepend as Kumuls coaching consultant.
The dual appointments ensure the Kumuls have a head coach in Tepend, who is highly regarded within PNG and by the nation’s players, while Flanagan will provide comfort to NRL clubs and familiarity for stars like Alex Johnston and Xavier Coates.
“I’m really excited about it, I think I can help the PNG team,” Flanagan said. “There’s a Test match in Fiji soon leading into the World Cup, and I’m there to help and give advice.
“PNG have a got a good footy team and I know how passionate PNG people are about rugby league in general, so I’m really excited about being involved in all of that.”
Flanagan’s involvement may increase the chances of Dragons lock Jack de Belin playing for the Kumuls at the World Cup, along with hooker James Segeyaro, who he coached at Cronulla in 2017 and 2018.
Segeyaro, who played five Tests for the Kumuls in 2017, has joined Manly on a train-and-trial contract in a bid to resurrect his NRL career after serving a 20-month doping ban.
Johnston, Coates, Justin Olam, Lachlan Lam and David Mead are other PNG players currently in the NRL, while Rhyse Martin, Nene McDonald and Wellington Albert are playing in England.
Tepend said he was humbled by his appointment to succeed Marum, who stood down recently and has been linked with a move into politics in PNG.
“A lot has happened over the last few months,” Tepend said. “Being part of the coaching staff at the Hunters was a highlight for me, to have been given the opportunity to assist and also learn as well at this level.
“Now to be given this opportunity, I am really humbled and thank the Lord for His timing and allowing this to happen.
“I am excited to take this challenge and I am grateful to Coach Michael for initially having me as part of his Kumuls staff over the last six years, and my journey to have some success with the team will always stay with me. Now I look forward to carrying that on as coach.”
Tepend’s first match in charge of the Kumuls will be against Fiji in the June 25 Pacific Test double-header at Campbelltown Stadium, which will also feature Samoa playing the Cook Islands.
The Kumuls, who will be based in Warrington during the World Cup, face Tonga in their opening match on October 18 at St Helens, before meeting Cook Islands on October 25 at Warrington and Wales on October 30 at Doncaster.