In brief: sports news from the Pacific

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Coach impressed with Drua workouts; Named Fighter Squad; and Bray quits Cricket Vanuatu job

Fijian Drua coach Mick Byrne is impressed with the progress Drua players have made in a short period of training.

Most of the players moved to Lennox Head base camp in New South Wales late last year and have undergone intense training to prepare for the Super Rugby Pacific season.

Former All Blacks and Wallabies skills coach Mick Byrne has been appointed as the new Fijian Drua head coach.
Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2010 www.photosport.nz

The former All Blacks skills coach says the players have proven themselves by improving their fitness and strength.

He says the players are changed mentally and leadership on the pitch is at the forefront.

“Every day our players arrived they were ready to go and mentally they were fired up, obviously that’s the leadership on the pitch before every practice and every player has been trained in that process.”

Byrne says in a professional rugby environment that is new to most players, they showed their ability to bounce back the next day.

Fijian Drua’s trial match scheduled for Sunday with Western Force has been canceled due to covid restrictions.

The team will face the Warratahs on February 18.

Hunters coach names final squad

PNG Hunters rugby league coach Matthew Church has named his final 26-man squad for the 2022 Intrust Super Cup.

Four players from the 30-man pre-season training squad have been cut while the selected players will leave today for the Gold Coast, where they will be based.

Twelve players, including veterans Ase Boas, Enoch Maki and Stanton Albert, have left the club.

With those leaving, it has created an opportunity for the next generation of players to step up and compete for places in the final 10 weeks of pre-season training.

The young forwards of Tony Worot, Francis Kembis, Nelson Yei, Sherwin Tanabi and Kitron Laka were impressive.

The returning strikers have been forced to step up and lead by example in training as the younger forwards continue to push them.

Former pre-season squad members Casey Dickson and Valentine Culligan were given another opportunity to make the squad while experienced striker Junior Rop was given a second chance to prove his worth.

As for the backline, the competition for spots has been healthy but choppy.

Judah Rimbu and Solomon Pokari are considered favorites for the semis after the exit of the experienced duo of Boas and Charlie Simon. However, Digicel Cup Premiership winners Mark Tony and Jamie Mavoko performed admirably throughout pre-season.

Bray leaves Cricket Vanuatu setup

The search has begun at Cricket Vanuatu for a new high performance manager, after former Ireland international player Jeremy Bray stepped down 11 months into his three-year contract due to personal and pandemic reasons.

Bray has created combined male and female training sessions for key players which Cricket Vanuatu is keen to build on.

Managing Director Tim Cutler believes Vanuatu’s training model could be a success elsewhere.

Cutler doesn’t expect a shortage of applications for the manager’s job, with applications already coming in from England and India.

League player dies

Papua New Guinea rugby league player Roa Maino Gairo has died aged 26 after a short illness.

Team leader Raymond Aru said The National newspaper, Gairo’s cause of death has yet to be confirmed as the club joined the rugby league community in mourning the passing of the back rower.

Gairo has been named Gulf Isou’s 2021 Player of the Year after a strong campaign in the country’s premier rugby league competition.

In a statement released yesterday, the club recognized Gairo’s commitment to Isou, with his award being ‘justly deserved for his hard work on and off the pitch, and his leadership’.

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