Gene to put friendship aside
Papua New Guinea coach Stanley Gene admits it will be 'weird' when he faces old friend Steve McNamara on Saturday
Last Updated: 04/11/10 5:03pm
Papua New Guinea coach Stanley Gene admits it will be "weird" when he faces old friend and current England coach Steve McNamara on Saturday.
The Kumuls and England will be battling to avoid picking up the Four Nations wooden spoon at Eden Park in Auckland.
Gene spent his entire 15-year professional career in England, briefly being a team-mate of McNamara's at Huddersfield and playing under him at Bradford in 2006.
"It will be weird coming up against Steve because he's a good friend of mine," Gene said.
The former Hull KR favourite, who played in the Super League as recently as 2009, will be forced to try and contain several familiar faces in the England side.
And Gene says he has sympathy for England's struggles in the competition, which has seen McNamara's men comfortably defeated by New Zealand and Australia.
"I've got family over there and Steve is a great friend of mine so I'm disappointed for them," he added.
"But Steve has lost two of his best players in Adrian Morley and Jamie Peacock, who were leaders on and off the field. You miss those big players.
"Most of the players are young kids and they need the older guys to lead them. I'm pretty sure he's missing those. But they've got loads of young kids and hopefully they will be getting better next year."
The Kumuls have so far been the whipping boys of this season's Four Nations, conceding 118 points in their two matches, but new coach Gene is refusing to be downhearted.
He said: "It's tough but, when you are looking at coaching, what better way than starting at the deep end?
"It's always been my dream to coach my country and, despite two heavy defeats, I'm loving every minute of this tournament.
"I can take lots of positives from the last two games. It's about players getting experience. Hopefully, if I can stay with PNG for another couple of years, I believe 100 per cent that PNG will be a force in the years to come."