Hunters primed


THE SP PNG Hunters have a simple equation in hand if they want to make the Q-Cup finals – they must win their remaining six regular season games.
Starting with Sunday’s Country Week round 19 fixture at the Lae Rugby League Oval against the Norths Devils, coach Michael Marum has shown just how focused and single-minded his side is with a self-imposed media ban as they look to exact revenge for their 34-22 loss to the Devils in Brisbane in round 5 as well as accrue a valuable two competition points.
The defending champions also give back to their fans outside of Port Moresby with their first Q-Cup fixture in the Morobe capital.
The game has taken on the proportions of an international match with a guaranteed full house despite the flat K50 admission fee.
Despite the hype surrounding the clash, the Hunters are under no illusions as to the difficulty of the assignment: the Devils are in fourth place (22 points) and are coming off a 42-12 thrashing of the CQ Capras.
The 10th-placed Hunters, on the other hand, ground out an 18-8 win over the fifth-placed Northern Pride at the NFS last week.
The Hunters have just one enforced change to their line-up with lock Rhadley Brawa out serving a three-match suspension for a dangerous throw in the Pride clash.
Willie Minoga has transitioned seamlessly into the familiar back-row from centre while a returning Stanton Albert slots into the No.13 jersey.
Captain Ase Boas is getting back to his best form with the boot kicking five from five last round while his running game could cause havoc for the visitors’ as the surface is expected to be slippery on game day.
In keeping with the Country Week theme ‘Get in the Game’, the Hunters will play in a one-off uniform that incorporates the green of Morobe and SP as well as featuring the APEC logo. The uniforms will be auctioned off after the game.
The Devils, who are a Brisbane Broncos feeder club, have named a strong side for the Lae test featuring a reliable spine of halves Zach Strasser and Troy Dargan, fullback Jack Ahearn and the wily Alex Bishop at dummy half.
Minoga said the side was growing in confidence and self-belief especially after coming off last round’s win over the Pride.
With a willing crowd behind them, the Hunters, including former Tigers Minoga and Charlie Simon, will be a tough proposition for any Q-Cup side.
Hunters also have the added pressure of knowing any slip up could end their quest for a finals berth while the Devils have a little more flexibility on the standings.
Marum took a 20-man squad to Lae yesterday afternoon. The final 17-man team will be named tomorrow during the captain’s run.
The Devils arrive in Lae today and become the first Q-Cup side to play in that part of the country.
Hunters: 1. Edene Gabbie 2. Junior Rau 3. Thompson Teteh 4. Adex Wera 5. Brendan Gotuno 6. Ase Boas (c) 7. Watson Boas 8. Enoch Maki 9. Wartovo Puara Jr 10. Moses Meninga 11. Nixon Put 12. Willie Minoga 13. Stanton Albert; Interchange: 14. Charlie Simon 15. Wawa Paul 16. McKenzie Yei 17. Dilbert Isaac 18. Gahuna Silas 19. Ila Alu 20. Butler Morris.
Rd 19 Fixtures: Sat, July 21 – Dolphins v Tigers, Bears v Capras, Falcons v Cutters, Pride v Jets, Magpies v WM Seagulls; Sun, July 22 – TH Seagulls v Blackhawks, PNG Hunters v Devils.

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