Justin Holbrook, the assistant coach of the Sydney Roosters, has been appointed as the head coach of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Kumuls. This is a significant achievement for rugby league development in PNG as they continue to work towards creating an internal pathways system in their bid to join the NRL. Holbrook will take up his role in time for the important Tri Series against Fiji and the Cook Islands, which is set to take place in October and November.
Holbrook’s coaching experience and success make him a valuable addition to the PNG Kumuls. He gained invaluable experience working with various NRL clubs before receiving his big break as head coach of St Helens in the English Super League in 2017. During his time at St Helens, Holbrook achieved an impressive 80% win rate, leading the team to the Challenge Cup Final in 2019 and winning the Super League title the same year. He then returned to Australia to coach the Gold Coast Titans in 2020, where he quickly turned around the team’s fortunes, guiding them to a 9th place finish. In 2021, Holbrook led the Titans to the Finals for the first time since 2016.
Following his departure from the Titans earlier this season, Holbrook’s coaching services were in high demand. Both the Canterbury Bulldogs and Warrington Wolves expressed interest in his services before he ultimately decided to join the Sydney Roosters as an assistant coach for the 2024 season, working alongside his close friend Trent Robinson.
The appointment of Holbrook as head coach of the PNG Kumuls has been well-received by PNG LNG Kumuls Chairman, Wapu Sonk. Sonk expressed his delight at securing the services of a coach with Holbrook’s reputation for developing younger players and creating a winning culture. Sonk believes this appointment is a major boost for rugby league in Papua New Guinea and demonstrates confidence in the country’s plans for the sport.
Holbrook himself is excited about the opportunity to work with a squad that is rapidly gaining a strong reputation. He acknowledges the passion for rugby league in PNG and sees the country’s commitment to building a structure that supports long-term development. With an abundance of talented players and a strong desire to compete against the best, Holbrook is eager to continue the players’ development and build on the progress made before his arrival.
In addition to Holbrook’s appointment, the PNGRFL CEO, Stanley Hondina, announced the re-appointment of Ben Jefferies as the Santos Orchids Head Coach and the appointments of Joe Grima and Solomon Kulunias as coaches for the Junior Kumuls and Junior Orchids, respectively. This further strengthens the coaching staff across all levels of PNG rugby league and emphasizes the commitment to player development from grassroots to international representation.