By ISAAC LIRI
ISRAEL Eliab has been solid for the PNG Hunters over the opening seven rounds of the Intrust Super Cup yet the impression is that he is not firing on all cylinders, nor is he hitting the form he showed in 2014 and 2015 when he was considered the competition’s best five-eighth.
His scored tries, captained the side, and was among the Hunters top performers on a weekly basis.
He left the club in 2016 for a stint with the London Broncos in the UK but was not able to replicate his dynamic form in the Kingstone Press Championship and returned after a handful of games and precious few highlights, if any.
Fans have been understandably disappointed in the 26-year-old, who was once touted as an NRL prospect, but has taken a back seat as other players in the Hunters squad – Bland Abavu, Ase Boas, Adex Wera and even Willie Minoga – have taken the limelight of late.
Eliab’s stats (averaging 96m from 10 runs a game, 13 tackles per match, one try so far) are not terrible, they are just not what people have come to expect from a gifted athlete.
Hunters coach Michael Marum, pictured, though is one man who has not lost faith in his charge.
He believes Eliab’s best is yet to come and it is only a matter of time before the East New Briton will repay the faith.
“Right now the team is putting no pressure on Israel, but I think that it’s just his game; he can probably pick up his old form soon, and the good thing is that he is not injured,” Marum, who coached Eliab in the Digicel Cup and has seen him develop from the juniors, said.
“I think there is a lot of talk about him but as long as he remains positive it’ll be good for him and the team too.
“He’s come back from England and struggled with his form but we must also understand that the Intrust Super Cup is probably the third toughest competition in the world apart from the NRL and the English Super League.
“I think 2014 and 2015 was a different time and most of the (Q-Cup) teams didn’t know who we were and now with the players in the system for three seasons, our opponents know how to play us.
“In every game, we play with any team in the competition, they do their homework so I’ve seen a lot of the times in our games this year that every time he (Eliab) touches the ball they are quickly up on him shutting him down.
“Last weekend against Redcliffe he (Eliab) made seven breaks so probably if he gets a bit more early ball he could cause some problems for the opposition.
“With Wartovo back in the side last week, there were signs of the old combination between the two, so I think that’s going to pick up as we go on and we’ll see how we go on Sunday against the Burleigh Bears but we expect Israel and the team to step up again,” Marum who has used Eliab in the centres over the three matches, said.
“I think he’s still working on his combinations with the other players and for him there is a lot of expectation to score a try or make breaks in every game like he did before but it is really tough for him and I think sometimes we just have to understand that,” Marum said.
By ISAAC LIRI