‘Hosts still dangerous despite luckless start’
THE SP Hunters feel like their “pre-season” has finished as they prepare for their first away match of the Queensland Intrust Super Cup (ISC) season in Mackay tomorrow (6pm kick-off).
The Hunters went into last weekend’s Easter break with a 1-1 win-loss record after their narrow defeat by Wynnum Manly and strong victory against the Ipswich Jets.
It was an encouraging start from the Hunters after they were unable to play any pre-season matches because of Covid-19 quarantine restrictions while most of their ISC rivals played three trial games.
Hunters coach Matthew Church said his squad were prepared for the remainder of a season that would feature more byes following a change in schedule due to last year’s Covid-19 problems.
“We’ve got three matches now before another break and then three matches again before a bye so we’re looking at the season in blocks,” he said.
“But we really feel as though we’ve got our pre-season done now because we’ve had the chance to play together, adjust to new rules and improve our match fitness.
“That’s really important because the ISC is such a tough competition.
“If you’re five or 10 per cent off your best in any game, you’re going to struggle to win.
“So we’re happy that we’ve made good progress in the last few weeks.”
The Hunters will arrive in Mackay to play a Cutters team that lost their opening two matches – a narrow defeat by ISC heavyweights Redcliffe before showing impressive patches in a loss to defending champions Burleigh Bears on the road.
Church said the Cutters were always dangerous, especially when boosted by their supporters at the BB Print Stadium.
But the Hunters will have their own support with Mackay’s Papua New Guinea community set to turn out in numbers for their team.
“Mackay’s PNG community has been in touch with us and we’re hopeful that about 200 Hunters supporters will be there which will be a boost for our players,” Church said.
“The Cutters have a big pack through the middle, so we know that we’re going to have to be physical again.
“The players are ready to go, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Emmanuel Waine comes into the back row for the Hunters in the only change to the starting team following the win over the Jets.
“Emmanuel has played in the middle for us in the first two games off the bench and shown strong commitment, but he’ll be back in a more familiar position on the edge this weekend,” Church said.
“He’s one of the players in our squad who has continued to progress well.
“He deserves his chance in the starting team against Mackay.”
Hunters: 1 Terry Wapi, 2 Junior Rau, 3 Brendan Nima, 4 Jokadi Bire, 5 Brendon Gotuno, 6 Watson Boas, 7 Charlie Simon, 8 Epel Kapinias, 9 Wartovo Puara Jr, 10 Samuel Yegip, 11 Benji Kot, 12 Emmanuel Waine, 13 Ila Alu (C); Interchange – Edwin Ipape, Sylvester Namo, Mark Pitti, Judah Rimbu.
Fixtures: Sat, April 10 – Falcons v Jets, Tweed Heads v Magpies, Devils v Blackhawks, Dolphins v Capras, Pride v Wynnum Manly, Cutters v Hunters; Sun, April 11 – Tigers v Bears.