‘Bire is like Olam’


MATTHEW Church says he is backing Jokedi Bire for a big season in the Intrust Super Cup, with the SP Hunters coach comparing him to Melbourne Storm centre Justin Olam.
Both products of the Digicel Cup heavyweights Lae Tigers and powerful centres, who relish the physicality of rugby league, the Chimbu pair’s comparison comes as little surprise.
Olam had a breakout campaign as a rookie Hunter in 2016 before he joined National Rugby League (NRL) club Melbourne the following year.
Biding his time with Storm feeder club Sunshine Coast Falcons, the 27-year-old didn’t make his NRL debut until midway through the 2018 season.
Olam has since gone on to cement a spot in Storm coach Craig Bellamy’s starting side and win an NRL premiership with the Victorian club.
And while it is still early days, Church believes Bire is following the same blueprint as the former Unitech Spartan.
“Bire certainly reminds me a lot of Justin,” he said,
Church said Bire was among a number of rookies, including halves Judah Rimbu and Solomon Pokari, who had impressed since the start of the pre-season.
“But one who has really impressed me is Bire,” he said.
“He’s probably a bit bigger than Justin when Justin was at the Hunters.
“But he’s certainly explosive, likes to play at left centre like Justin.
“He likes to play with a lot of intent like Justin, so I can’t wait to get him into some game situations and see how he handles the step up in the level of rugby league.”
Meanwhile, Church said he was keen on picking up from where they left off before the Christmas break.
“We need to keep developing what we’ve learnt and adding another brick to the pile and building the wall in our game,” he said.
“We’ve come a long way, we’ve advanced from where we were last year.
“So I’m really happy, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Meanwhile, Church said their departure to Australia for the season-long relocation was still subject to approval by Queensland authorities.


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