The OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 may still be over five months away, but new Papua New Guinea women’s coach Nicola Demaine is keen to establish who her first-choice playing group are sooner rather than later.
A vastly experienced coach with recent history in New Zealand and Australia, Demaine took the job on with a good knowledge of the talent available thanks to her previous role with the PNG U15 girls’ side.
“I like the squad I have seen so far. There’s a nice blend of experience and new, younger players,” Demaine said.
“I am in contact with other players to widen the squad and always on the search for players who deserve a chance to step up.
“The main thing for me is to settle on a group quickly, so I can concentrate on assisting those players to become the best they can be.
“But I won’t confirm the squad for the Nations Cup until much nearer the time. The gauntlet has been thrown down to all players and those who work hard, learn and perform will be the ones who are selected.
“It will be interesting to see which players put in the effort to rise to the top.”
Right now Demaine is stationed in the capital Port Moresby, where a large chunk of the squad come from, while smaller training sessions in Lae and Medang are being managed by locally-based coaches.
Plans are in place to bring all of the players together in February, while closer to the Women’s Nations Cup it is hoped a centralised programme can be set up.
“Having players spread around the country is definitely an immediate challenge,” Demaine said.
“Our initial key focus is on individual development, including physical performance, and other focus areas later will be on team cohesion and collective tactics.
“Playing as many games together as possible will be key for us to progress.
“We have some plans in place and hope to confirm some international matches very soon.
“It is important to hold camp overseas to practice our routines and habits for playing away from home, as well as measuring ourselves up against other countries.”
PNG come off a strong campaign at the last OFC Women’s Nations Cup in 2018, earning a third-place finish after powering past New Caledonia 7-1 in the play-off for third.
Main photo: The Papua New Guinea women’s squad at a training session. Credit: PNGFA