Top two target

The National, Friday July 15th, 2016

THE Papua New Guinea Hunters head into their Round 19 clash with the Redcliffe Dolphins on Sunday knowing a win will set them up nicely for their run home.
Sitting in third spot with 26 points, coach Michael Marum’s men have the task of facing one of the Intrust Super Cup’s in-form sides, who are in second-place also on 26 points, despite having been edged 11-10 at home by the Wynnum Manly Seagulls last round.
Victory at Dolphin Oval would prove the SP-sponsored Hunters are genuine premiership contenders but more importantly would push them into outright second place and if their form holds with four of their last six games at home a top two finish is more than likely.
But according to Hunters chief executive officer Bob Cutmore if the Hunters want the chance to host a home semi-final – something they have never done before despite a second last season – then they have to finish the regular season in number one place.
“We’ve got four home games after the Redcliffe match and the aim is to finish in the top two but if we come second then we don’t get to host a home final in week two because we’d have to travel to the minor premier’s home ground for that,” Cutmore said.
“Preferably we’d like to finish on top because then we get the first week of the finals off and host the second-placed team.
“It’d be great to host a home final because we haven’t lost in PNG since 2014.”
Cutmore said a home final would still required the Hunters management to negotiate with Queensland Channel Nine, who have broadcasting rights to the finals series.
“Obviously branding will be an issue with the competition’s major sponsor another brewer (XXXX). But I’m sure we can work something out when the time comes.”
The Hunters face the Easts Tigers, Ipswich Jets and Burleigh Bears at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby after the Dolphins match and then go on the road to face the Townsville Blackhawks and Northern Pride before ending their regular season with a match against the Sunshine Coast at home.
The squad was further bolstered by the recruitment of two Digicel Cup players during the week.
Gulf Isape’s Bernard Goma and Lae Tigers’ Junior Rop were drafted during the week to back up the forward pack. Both men will training with the Hunters for the remainder of the season and will still be used by their clubs but could get game time over the remaining rounds.
Marum named a 18-man squad for the Redcliffe game with Justin Olam expected to stay in Australia to attend a two-day Melbourne Storm camp for all their Q-Cup recruits during the week.
Rugby convert Butler Morris has retained his wing spot after performing solidly in Round 17’s 40-10 win over the Tweed Heads Seagulls.
Halfback Watson Boas, who has been nursing a right knee injury all week, was replaced by utility Atte Bina Wabo yesterday.
Back-rower Brandy Peter and wing William Aquila round off the bench. PNG Hunters: 1. Bland Abavu 2. Butler Morris 3. Justin Olam 4. Thompson Teteh 5. Adex Wera 6. Ase Boas 7. Atte Bina Wabo  8. Enoch Maki 9. Wartovo Puara Jr 10. Esau Siune 11. Edward Goma 12. Adam Korave (Captain) 13. Timothy Lomai; Reserves: 14. Warren Glare 15. Brandy Peter 16. Ishmael Balkawa 17. Benjamin Hetra 18. William Aquila.