But the man who famously coached the team when they pushed Australia all the way, before going down 32-14 back in 1992, is also calling for the immediate dismissal of high performance manager Mal Meninga.
Wagambie says he's yet to see any evidence of the duo's five-year-plan, and he claims Lam and Meninga don't have what he calls 'the savvy' to re-develop the game in PNG from the schools up.
Presenter: Richard Ewart
Speaker: John Wagambie, former PNG rugby league captain and coach
WAGAMBIE: We are paying a lot of public money for him and for Adrian to come in. Adrian's failed twice. Any organisation that runs a business either their CEO resigns or they sack him for that performance. We need to have somebody to be domiciled in Papua New Guinea and if they're serious about rugby league in Papua New Guinea they should be here in Papua New Guinea, spend more time, go around to the rest of the country and demonstrate that they're serious about the rugby league code here, and that hasn't happened, We don't need people flying in and out, getting a lot of money and doing bugger all.
EWART: You would prefer to have a Papua New Guinean in charge of the national team as the high performance manager, would that be right?
WAGAMBIE: Yes and no. For a start we do have a capacity issue at the moment. This is the way we should run rugby league in this country. I would like to have Mal Meninga and Adrian Lam replaced immediately. We advertise the job of our national coaching director, failing that we hand-pick a retired national coaching director in Queensland or New South Wales, because Australia is actually the benchmark. So bring them in, give them a career contract. They have the love of the game, they will impart their knowledge to us. And then we have to appoint a deputy, advertise in PNG and this person will work under the tutelage of the coaching director for two years. At the end of the two years we say goodbye to him and this national coaching director takes over , with a new national coaching director coming in, and let's appoint four regional development managers. And let's start with a two-pronged approach; the first one is to devise an all school strategy for PNG, and then we train the teachers so they're competent as coaches, trainers and referees and so on and so forth. And then we select maybe a group of maybe 4 or 5 clubs and we have them sent to Australia in competitions such as the under-14 competition, so that's the first part, school boy competitions. The second part is that we need to work on the Digicel Cup. At the moment the Digicel cup is actually a useless competition. I would like to beef it up, ensure the coaches are skilled and we have a vibrant competition. At the moment it's a waste of money. We know the deficiencies and let's fix it.
EWART: What about the PNG NRL bid setup? You're saying that that particular company should be liquidated. Is that because you don't believe that PNG should be bidding for a place in the NRL, or do you just feel that that organisation is not going about it in the best way?
WAGAMBIE: To be honest with you, and in Papua New Guinea and I've said it publicly, we will never enter the NRL, never. We're just wasting public money on something that benefits only a few individuals, and unfortunately they all expect this. And why would we want to go into the NRL anyway? You look at a small country like Fiji they're very, very successful in rugby union. How did they become successful? They're a country of 700-thousand people compared to seven million here, they are only one-tenth of Papua New Guinea. We're just wasting public funds on the NRL bid. Get rid of the NRL bid, put the money back to the development that's I'm talking about. Pay the development officer something like 100-thousand a year, don't pay him peanuts, give him good money, give him more resources, let's build our capacity here, and then if we can get some of our players into the NRL build up capacity with Fiji and Samoa and all these people.
EWART: So what do you therefore see John as the realistic level that rugby league in Papua New Guinea can achieve?
WAGAMBIE: We can be competitive. The morale of our boys was destroyed, way before they left Papua New Guinea (for the World Cup) we should never have gone. Their morale was destroyed before they went. Our guys need to learn to start a game from kick-off. In the second 40 minutes, our boys gave it to the Samoans and the Samoans started to fade, but unfortunately time ran out on us. Against the New Zealanders, last 15 minutes, absolutely fantastic. If I was coaching the team I would say let's have structure, structure, structure in defence. In attack throw structure out on the wings and go for it boys, be unorthodox, play the game, enjoy the game and put points on the board.
EWART: In view of everything that you've said and the obvious passion that you still have for the game that you love so much, are you prepared to throw your hat into the ring in some form? Is it too late for you to be considered as national coach again?
WAGAMBIE: I don't want to be national coach because I believe in successive planning you know. I am now 59 years old, I'll be 60 next year. I will be available to assist the young guns of this country, the young guns such as (Michael) Marum. I will make myself available as a technical advisor to them so that I will have an overarching responsibility to ensure there's always people who are given the responsibilities they should do properly and let's get our rugby league back on track to be a power. I would like to see our younger people take over for longevity. I would like to mentor and I believe we can certainly get people like Wayne Bennett who has got a passion for the game. We can get the Melbourne Storm coach he can come in just to mentor and provide some support on an as and when required basis. Not to put people on some hefty amount of money and they're doing bugger all for maybe 11 months of the year and get paid 12 months on very high salaries, this is the point I'm making now. If you want to be paid a hefty sum of money you make sure that you perform 12 months. So I'm going to be making myself available to mentor younger coaches and players to ensure that we reach that level. I don't want to get any credit for that and if Michael Marum becomes the coach they're a few of us who know him and if he's successful, we are successful, that's to his credit. It's not my credit, I did my time, I've earned my respect and that's it.