By JACK AMI
THE SP PNG Hunters’ search for size could be answered by the inclusion of Epel Kapinias.
The East New Briton, who is a 186cm tall and weighs 102kg, made coach Michael Marum’s initial 60-man squad in the off-season and is now one selection away from making the final 25 for the 2019 Intrust Super Cup.
But unlike some other big men who have made Marum’s squads over the years, Kapinias seems a keeper with the humble 21-year-old taking nothing for granted, least of all his physical attributes.
Being a product of the East New Britain rugby league scene as well as a member of the iconic Agmark Gurias Kapinias banks on his dedication to training and trying to master the skills needed to move to the next level of rugby league.
Kapinias said he was surprised when called up to the off-season training camp after playing only six matches in the Digicel Cup competition last year.
Kapinias is the younger brother of Gurias winger Lucas Kapinias and played for the Kokopo Muruks, who won the ENBRL title.
The Nangananga village native was encouraged by uncle and former PNG Kumul prop Lucas Solbat who got him playing for the Muruks A grade in 2016 as an 18-year-old and was graduated to the Gurias development squad the following season.
Kapinias completed grade 12 in 2016 at Nojanah Integrated School at Unamami but started playing for the Muruks Under-19s the year before.
“I was picked to play for the New Guinea Islands Confederation at the national confederation championships which was my first representative team,” Kapinias said.
“The Gurias picked me to play for them in the Digicel Nines in Goroka in 2017 and then I was picked to attend the Commonwealth Games U21 9s in Queensland.
“I play in the second row and sometimes prop but I know that the coach can put me anywhere so I’m ready for the challenge.”
Kapinias echoed what other rookies have said regarding the Hunters system.
“Hunters training is very intense and quiet a lot different from the Gurias and training twice a day is a very tiring experience but you have to really get prepared to be doing it over and over and do it right,” he said.
“As one of the new players, we are all going through the transition which is hard and challenging but I think its building our confidence and we are all getting better.”
Kapinias said 11 weeks of training he had come to appreciate what the Hunters stood for and added that the senior players had been helpful while Marum and his staff had been pushing them to reach new heights which he was grateful for.
By JACK AMI