Hunters name 11 debutants


REIGNING Digicel Cup premiership-winning Lae Tigers halves Mark Tony and Jamie Mavoko were among 11 new faces named in the final 26-man SP Hunters squad yesterday.
Digicel Cup grand finalists Roderick Tai, Kitron Laka, Sherwin Tanabi, Matthew Jesse and Francis Kembis also got the nod for the upcoming Hostplus Cup season in Queensland, Australia.
They join fellow new faces in Liam Joseph (Rabaul Gurias), Kingstimer Paraia (Port Moresby Vipers Academy), Tony Worot (Kimbe Cutters) and Wesa Tenza (Mendi Muruks).
Returning to the South Pacific Brewery-sponsored side are Tigers workhorses Casey Dickson and Junior Rop who are expected to form a formidable pack alongside co-captains Keven Appo and Ila Alu.
But incumbent winger Junior Rau, Solomon Pokari, electric Tigers No.1 Sanny Wabo, nippy Gurias rake Nathan Tente, game-breaking Muruks forward Nelson Yei and Wigmen skipper Valentine Culligan missed the cut.
“It is my pleasure to announce the final squad of 26 for the upcoming season,” Hunters coach Matthew Church said.
“We have an exciting mix of returning and new players from Papua New Guinea’s premier rugby league competition, the Digicel Cup.
“There is a real hunger within the group to perform, challenge each other and strive towards a better season.”
Church also confirmed the Hunters’ leadership model for the new season.
“I am proud to announce that (2021 vice-captain) Keven Appo steps up alongside (2021 captain) Ila Alu to be co-captains of the Hunters this year,” he said.
“They will be joined in a leadership group with 2022 vice-captain Brandon Nima.
“All three players have been dominant voices throughout an encouraging pre-season.”
This will be the second year that the Hunters have relocated to Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast to maintain their slot in the Hostplus Cup. Church acknowledged the added difficulty, but said his men were motivated to perform.
“Last year presented plenty of challenges, none more so than many of the Hunters players living in a new country for the first time,” he said.
“Like most first-time adventures, you can’t expect to always get things right and we’ve taken confidence from lessons learnt last year.
“The new season has the promise to be better still.
“On behalf of the playing squad and staff, I would like to acknowledge the ongoing support of our sponsors, partners and stakeholders that make all this possible.
“Without your support, we can’t do what we love and that is represent you all and PNG in the best light.
“To the families of the Hunters players and staff, thank you for supporting them on this journey.
“To everyone across PNG, please stay safe.
“We take great honour in representing you all and aim to bring you pride every time we play this year.”
Squad: Terry Wapi, Solo Wane, Brandon Nima, Gilimo Paul, Judah Rimbu, Ila Alu, Samuel Yegip, Sylvester Namo, Dilbert Isaac, Jordan Pat, Keven Appo, Emmanuel Waine, Benji Kot, Matthew Jesse, Liam Joseph, Roderick Tai, Mark Tony, Jamie Mavoko, Casey Dickson, Anthony Worot, Sherwin Tanabi, Francis Kembis, Kingstimer Paraia, Wesa Tenza, Junior Rop, Kitron Laka.