By JACK AMI
THE 2020 Papua New Guinea Rugby League season will kick off with a bang when Australian National Rugby League clubs Canterbury Bulldogs and Cronulla Sharks lock horns in a pre-season trial at the Oil Search National Football Stadium on Feb 22.
The match will be preceded by the SP PNG Hunters’ Intrust Super Cup trial against the CQ Capras at 3pm.
The Brisbane Broncos (2018) and Penrith Panthers NSW Cup side (2016) are the other NRL clubs to play pre-season trials at the NFS. Both sides played the Hunters.
With the NRL season to start in March, both sides could roll out most of their first grade squad in the evening fixture with Sharks big names Aaron Woods, Wade Graham, Josh Morris, Josh Dugan, Andrew Fifita, Matt Moylan and Shaun Jonson a chance to play while for the Bulldogs Will Hopoate, Josh Jackson, Dylan Napa and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak are possible inclusions along with the likely host of rookies and fringe players from both NRL clubs.
After a successful end to the PNGRFL 2019 season which saw large crowds for the PNG-Great Britain test and Digicel Cup grand final, the trial is all but guaranteed to attract large numbers of fans to fill the 15,000 capacity stadium.
PNGRFL chief executive Reatau Rau lauded the fixtures as a great way to kick off the 2020 calendar.
“A new chapter will unfold as the Bulldogs and Sharks with its NRL teams including its star players feature in this international event for the first time in the country,” Rau said.
“This is going to be ‘live’ and first time for all the locals to watch their some of their favourite NRL stars in action.”
The Hunters-Capras match will provide coach Matt Church his first chance to see his players in action and work out his combinations and form heading into their second preseason trial the following Saturday away against the Townsville Blackhawks.
NFS general manager Lee Pokarap confirmed that grand stand tickets would be priced at K120 with the West Stand (K80), East Stand (K50) and North and South Stand (K30) all at affordable prices.
Pokarap said organisers expected tickets to sell fast and encouraged the public to purchase their tickets ahead of time to avoid disappointment.