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Monday, 28 July 2014

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PNG Test stars up the heat at Haven

WHITEHAVEN’S capture of current Papua New Guinea Test stars Glen Nami and Jessie Joe Parker will spark fresh competition for places within the squad, reckons coach Don Gailer.

The arrivals of stand-off Nami, 25, and 26-year-old centre Parker, pending the issuing of work visas, were made possible after the re-formed Vice Presidents Club agreed to contribute to accommodation costs, and they are set to arrive at the Recre within a few weeks.

Gailer said: “It will bring a buzz to the playing staff, there’s no doubt about that. There’s pressure to perform every time we walk out on to the park, whether in training or in a game.

“But this will bring added pressure to the group and I’m looking for a positive reaction. When was the last time Whitehaven could say they had two current Test players in the side?

“I guess we are in this position because of Des (Byrne) and the Vice Presidents Club. They have really come to the fore, and it’s tremendous they are backing the team and the club.”

Both players are versatile and capable of featuring in a string of positions, though Gailer plans to play them, initially at least, in their most recognised roles.

“Both are very talented with ball in hand, so I need to put them in a position where they are carrying the footy,” he added.

“There will still be a place for Carl Rudd, there’s no doubt about that. He’s our stand-out player at the moment and he’ll be somewhere in the 13. It could be at seven or loose-forward.”

Haven had been trying since October to secure work visas for another two PNG players, Joe Bond and Tommy Butterfield.

And while both Queensland Cup players were highly-rated by Gailer, they had not played Test rugby for their country and did not qualify for work visas. So the club decided to look elsewhere.

Chief executive Barry Richardson spoke to agent David Howes, who had Parker on his books, and he put the club in touch with PNG favourite Stanley Gene.

Richardson said: “Don and myself sat down one morning and felt we were banging our heads against a brick wall over Joe and Tommy. We felt we had to move quickly to bring in two quality signings.

“Stanley knew a bit about Don’s background and said that while other clubs were interested in the players, an Australian coach would probably know better how to look after Papua New Guineans.

“If it hadn’t been for Don with his pedigree, I don’t think we would have got Nami.

“We are delighted with the squad we have got, but we really feel these two signings are exciting and will bring something to the club, and hopefully ensure we are very successful in this critical season.

“Visas can take up to eight weeks but we are making inroads and speaking to people at the Border Agency. We are looking at three or four weeks to get them here, and if it’s sooner, that’s fantastic.”

The pair, who featured in a Test series against Fiji last October/November, are currently in Papua New Guinea.

Both are experienced internationals, and Nami scored a try against New Zealand in the 2010 Four Nations.

Parker also featured in the tournament and is no stranger to England after scoring 17 tries in just 14 appearances for Championship high-flyers Featherstone Rovers in 2010.

He was then snapped up by Wakefield on a two-year contract but did not join the Super League club, reportedly over a visa issue.

Byrne said: “The club approached us and asked if we could help with some overseas signings, in terms of paying accommodation.

“The Vice Presidents were set up to help strengthen and develop the team, and that more than fitted in to our remit. We were more than happy to do it. It’s tremendous they can get players of this quality in to the club. It’s tremendous not only for the club but the town as well.

“I’m sure it will do wonders for the community development programme. They are quality players and it will be a delight to see them down at the Recreation Ground.

“These signings are a reflection of those who have joined the Vice Presidents’ Club. They joined for exactly this reason and I would like to thank everyone who has joined the Vice Presidents to help support it.”

Joint skipper Scott McAvoy is likely to miss the Northern Rail Cup trip to Workington Town on Sunday (3pm) after picking up a knee injury agai-nst Gateshead last weekend.

“It’s very unlikely Scott will play,” Gailer said. “On Monday he was still hobbling about and his knee was very swollen.

“Unless there’s a remarkable turnaround I can’t see him playing on Sunday. Andrew Beattie’s ankle is not responding and it’s likely he will miss again.

“Bradd Crellin and Craig Calvert also came out with injuries that stopped them training on Monday, and Chris Smith picked up an old injury he had previously.”

Haven have now confirmed that full-back Craig Benson has left the club.

This week’s Pride of Five £100 winners are: M Chambers, Calder Avenue, Whitehaven, with ticket number 994; W Mullen, Balmoral Road, Whitehaven, 3,946; G Dawson, Burnmoor Avenue, Mirehouse, 1,511; R McDonald, Main Street, Parton, 1,806; L Telford, Central Avenue, Distington, 3,126.

Leeds Line winners: R Reed, L0525; Jill Colby, B4730; Kris Brining, R2145; DR Crank, H1292; Katie Atha, E1674.

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