By ISAAC LIRI
TWO former Lae-based players in the PNG Hunters camp are looking forward to the historical Hunters-Devils match in the Morobe capital on Sunday.
Willie Minoga and Charlie Simon played for the city’s Digicel Cup franchise, the Lae Tigers, before being recruited by the Hunters and are excited about the opportunity to play in front of their home crowd.
For Minoga, known as “Mack Truck” in the Q-Cup, it’s been five long years since the last time he played in Lae and going back to play there will be special.
“I’ve never been to Lae in the last five years, the last time I was there, I was playing with the Lae Tigers in the Digicel Cup,” Minoga said.
“I’m looking forward to going back there and getting the job done and giving back something to our fans in Lae.
“I think most of my family from Wapenamanda (Enga) will be travelling down the Highlands Highway to support me and the Hunters so it’s going to be an exciting experience but we have to concentrate on our game as well,” Minoga said.
“The excitement with the fans will be there but we as players have a job to do and we have to win all our remaining games to make the finals.
“We’ll have to concentrate on our game and not get distracted by the excitement of the game taking place in Lae for the first time,” the centre/back-rower added.
Five-eighth Simon, who captained of the Tigers to back-to-back titles last year, is relishing returning to the Lea Rugby League Oval in Hunters colours.
“Going to Lae and playing means a lot to me and I will do my best with the Hunters boys and hopefully we can give our fans in Lae something to remember,” Simon, who will come off the bench as a hooker/half, said.
“I think it’s going to be a good game and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Hunters leave for Lae today in preparation for the Devils.
The Hunters lost their round 5 fixture 34-22 against the Devils in Brisbane in April.
Coach Michael Marum said his side had a hiccup at home losing to Redcliffe 28-20 in round 17 but managed to right the ship with their 18-8 win over the Northern Pride last Sunday in Port Moresby and they were looking for more of that gritty, determined approach against the Devils.
“After that loss to Redcliffe we worked hard on our mistakes and defence and as a result we beat the Pride last Sunday,” Marum said.
“These matches are important, we have three games at home against the Devils, Bears (on July 29, round 20) and the Wynnum Manly Seagulls on August 19 (round 23) and we have to win them all.
“Our away matches are against Souths Logan (on Aug 5, round 21), Tweed Heads (on Aug 12, round 22) and the Capras (on Aug 25, round 24) and they’ll be all tough because we are playing top six teams and the loss to Redcliffe gave us things to work on,” Marum said.
The Hunters will train today and tomorrow at the Lae Rugby League Oval to get used to the weather and conditions as well as surface at the upgraded venue.
By ISAAC LIRI