Papua New Guinea believe they’re peaking at just the right time going into today’s AFL International Cup final.
The defending champions lost their opening match against Ireland but have since racked up big wins against Nauru, the USA and South Africa.
The Mosquitoes sneaked into the grand final after New Zealand edged the Irish by four points in the final round, slotting the winning goal in the dying seconds of the match.
Head coach David Lake said they have come a long way in the past fortnight.
“Our first real training run was in the warm-up against the Irish – we hadn’t actually caught up for three years so we were off to a bit of a standing start, we were up at three quarter time and we probably just didn’t quite know how to finish.”
“Then as the weeks have gone we’ve got better at what we’ve done and we improve every day and actually got to have a few training sessions, so I feel like we’re going to come to the MCG ready because we’re climbing the mountain and we’re getting closer to the top just with form and understanding and from hanging out together and just spending a bit of time. Yeah we’re dangerous,” he said.
Papua New Guinea are the only country to play in every International Cup final, dating back to 2002.
New Zealand have been widely tipped as the team to beat but David Lake said his squad won’t be over awed by the occasion.
“We’re as ready as we’ll ever be. Probably the difference in culture – it’s not normal to be an arrogant, up front chest-puffing PNG boy. Life is difficult every day – you get up and you take on the elements so there’s probably not a lot that life can dish at you that can be sometimes worse than what you get put through, so I think they’re optimists in the way they approach live and they take each challenge as it comes and we’re happy with where we’re at.”
“They’re a lot bigger and stronger than us – probably move a little bit slower – and we’re small and slick and we move the ball quick. We’re quite natural and they’re at times robotic,” he said.
“It will be two contrasting ways to play footy but certainly we’ll have our work cut out with their size and strength and they’ll have their work cut out trying to catch us.”
The men’s final will be played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, prior to the Collingwood-Geelong AFL match, with the women’s final between Canada and Ireland serving as the curtain-raiser to the Carlton-Hawthorn game at Etihad Stadium.