PNG’s warm welcome on chilly night
NEW Zealander Ricki Herbert could be forgiven for thinking he was back at home in chilly Wellington rather than watching his football team play in Ipswich.
While he handled the familiar cold conditions, players in the Papua New Guinea national team were struggling on a freezing Wednesday night at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
"They just don't cope with it all,'' Herbert said of the PNG footballers. "But we're here and working through that.''
As the PNG players scurried for a hot shower after losing 5-2 to Western Pride, Herbert was satisfied his newly inherited team benefited from its tour match.
"It's about the bigger picture for us,'' the former international New Zealand player, national team head coach and Wellington Phoenix A-League mentor said.
"We've worked the players pretty hard the last couple of days and they were probably feeling it a little bit tonight but it was real good for them.''
After the scores were deadlocked 1-1 at halftime, Western Pride ran out comfortable winners.
PNG's national side is in Australia gaining extra game time before returning for next month's Pacific Games in Port Moresby and to contest Olympic qualifiers.
Herbert only took on the job in March. He accepted the match in Ipswich having coached Pride's current mentor Karl Dodd from 2007-09.
"It was good. It's got the boys back together now,'' Herbert said of the valuable match practice.
"We haven't had them for about six weeks so it was a nice introduction into some cold weather for them.''
Auckland-born Herbert said the uncomfortable playing conditions added to the Queensland tour challenge before the PNG team heads to Asia on Sunday.
PNG is soon going to play in Malaysia and Bangkok.
The 1982 World Cup defender enjoyed seeing what the Western Pride team offered.
"Good, strong competition is certainly what we need and hopefully we get a couple more of those (games) before we head for Asia,'' Herbert said.
"We're pleased to be here.''
As PNG coach, Herbert had to deal with visa issues, getting players out of school to tour and travel demands in a foreign country.
However, what the Kiwi is doing is important for PNG football's development, given they generally only have training camps at home.
"As you can appreciate, it's probably difficult for these island countries to get a lot of competition,'' Herbert said.
"The potential of what they've got there is exciting.
"From my perspective, that's a challenge.''
Herbert thanked Western Pride club officials for the hospitality they offered the PNG team.
The international coach hopes to return to the city in the future.
Ipswich just needs to turn on some warmer weather for the visitors.
Positive response to Dodd's new path
HAVING coached Western Pride's current mentor Karl Dodd at Wellington, Ricki Herbert was keen to catch up in Ipswich.
"I've haven't seen him for a while. He probably hasn't aged too much,'' a smiling Herbert said of Dodd.
The former Wellington Phoenix A-League mentor said Dodd was good for the Wellington club, when he spent two seasons there during his playing career.
Herbert, who lives north of Wellington, is watching how Dodd is progressing as a first-year head coach in the competitive National Premier Leagues state competition.
"I'm pleased he's into coaching,'' Herbert said. "I think he's got his feet on the ground and quite guided on where he wants to be over a period of time.''
Herbert said going into coaching was a fully rounded role former players like Dodd had to adapt to.
"I know he will give tons of energy and lots of experience to where the club wants to go,'' Herbert said. "He's very positive. I wish him all the best.''