Third Genia hits the international stage
By Chris Thau
There have been so many "premieres" for this cheerful group of Papua New Guinea teenagers that one could have been easily forgiven for getting detracted from the main objective of this trip to the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2010 in Moscow, which was to play rugby and get better at it.
This was the first trip outside Papua New Guinea for most of them, the first time ever they had stayed in a large 4-star hotel, the first time ever they landed in a foreign country, first time they were refereed by Polish, Japanese and Italian referees, the first time they experienced European food, and so on.
Despite the many firsts, Head Coach Robin Tarere, in his second JWRT assignment as PNG national coach, believes that they have focussed well on the task at hand. "I am very pleased with the way they improved with every match," he said during a break in training this week. "Take the scrum for example. We were really made to suffer by Italy in the first match, but held our own against the Romanians. We did well at the rucks and even in the lineout, and scored two great tries, to briefly take the lead, which was tremendous.
"We have improved as the tournament went on and this is all that counts in the end," he observed.
Attractive brand of rugby
Nigel Genia, their unassuming and intensely thoughtful 19-year old outside half and playmaker, agrees. "We did make tremendous progress in the last two weeks and expect with anticipation the fourth match against Zimbabwe. Both teams play a similar type of a game, loose and fast, and that should provide great entertainment, weather permitting."
Genia, the youngest member of an impressive Australian-PNG rugby dynasty that includes father Kilroy, a former RL player, brothers Will, the half back of the Wallabies and Frankie (Francis), the PNG senior side scrum half, is one of the few PNG U20 players to live outside the country.
Nigel, who has graduated from the family school Brisbane Boys College, is reading business studies at Griffiths University, following Will's advice. The three brothers, who all represented the School, now share a house in Brisbane. They are a tightly knit family and are in almost daily contact with their father Kilroy and mother Elizabeth, a senior Director of the National Bank of PNG and their two younger sisters Lorraine 15 and Alle-Marie 10, who live in Port Moresby.
Together and in opposition
"Family is very important to us, though we all enjoy our rugby. Will is now playing for the Reds. Me and Frankie, who also studies at Griffiths University, play club rugby in Brisbane. I play for the Wests and Frankie is playing for the Norths, and we have played against each other on occasions. Though we are very competitive, we are also very close and are very supportive of each other," Nigel observed.
"I have to say that having two international half-back brothers has acted as a great incentive for me. They are my mentors and friends and I am very proud of their achievements. But to be honest when we are together rugby is not the main talking point. We have a life to live and the family if the most important thing. Will has insisted that we should study to make sure that we have options in life after rugby."
"This tournament has been a tremendous experience for me and the PNG boys and we will give our best shot on Sunday in our last match," he concluded.
According to Head Coach Tarere, the squad has learnt some unexpected lessons during their time together. "Basically everything was a first-ever for most of them. They had never been together before meeting in Port Moresby for the trip here. They have never seen so much food on a platter as they had here and so on.
"In fact, because of the large amount of food available they ate far too much and we had to cut down on their food intake, when we noticed that they got a bit sluggish in the first match. That did really work, and they recaptured their 'hunger' so to speak.
"This is a very nice group of players and they gelled well together over here. They come from different social backgrounds and from all over PNG."