SP PNG Hunters, one of the Intrust Super Cup’s least experienced teams, have been forced to make two more changes to their side for their Round 10 clash with the in-form Norths Devils at Bishop Park on Saturday.
The Hunters last week called in veteran halfback Ase Boas for the first time this season after he had arrived in the country to boost the young side against Townsville Blackhawks last Saturday.
Yet the Hunters immediately lost experienced fullback Terry Wapi who returned from a PCL knee injury in the 38-28 loss to the Blackhawks but pulled up with symptoms that showed he had not fully recovered. Wapi remains a week-to-week proposition as medical staff monitor the injury as he approaches full fitness.
Five-eighth Edwin Ipape tore a rotator cuff in his shoulder against the Blackhawks and will be sidelined for several weeks with Charlie Simon called back into the side to partner Boas in the halves. Norman Brown reverts from the wing to fullback where he has deputised for Wapi well this season, with Solo Wane promoted to the wing.
Even with Boas back as the Hunters’ main playmaker, they can field just four players who have played more than 50 ISC games – Boas (111), hooker Wartovo Puara Jnr (116), Enock Maki (91) and Stanton Albert (52). None have played in the NRL.
As a comparison, this Saturday’s opponents is a Brisbane Broncos affiliated team that boast in their squad the likes of Tyrone Roberts (189 NRL and Super League games), Danny Levi (107 NRL matches and four Tests), Leivaha Pulu (58 NRL games) and seasoned ISC performers Connor Broadhurst (121 games), Jack Ahearn (111), Jonathon Reuben (96) and Tony Tumusa (65).
“We’re really inexperienced across the board and we knew, because of that, this season would be a real learning curve for most of the squad,” Hunters coach Matt Church said.
“Another example was against Burleigh Bears in Round 5. They had had 950 games of Intrust Super Cup experience plus 200 NRL games of experience with a few more NSW Cup games thrown in.
“We had 324 ISC games of experience across the board.
“That’s the challenge we have this season. But the positive is that we have been able to compete for the whole 80 minutes in just about every game and you can see the benefit a lot of our younger players are gaining the more time they have on the field at this level.
“The week-to-week pressure and consistency of their opposition is new to some of them. But our guys are learning from that experience and that is going to show in the second half of the competition.
“This week will be another big challenge against a team sitting second on the ladder and playing with a lot of confidence. But I know our guys aren’t going to surrender at any stage and that’s what has been impressive about them.”
The SP PNG Hunters to play Norths Devils at Bishop Park, Brisbane on Saturday, June 12 at 2.10pm:
1. Norman Brown 2. Junior Rau. 3.Brandon Nima. 4. Jokadi Bire. 5. Solo Wane. 6. Ase Boas. 7. Charlie Simon. 8. Stanton Albert. 9. Wartovo Puara Jnr. 10. Samuel Yegip 11. Benji Kot 12. Keven Appo. 13. Ila Alu (c). Interchange: 14. Judah Rimbu. 15. Sylvester Namo 16. Emmanuel Waine 17. Enock Maki. Coach: Matt Church.
Norths Devils: 1. Jack Ahearn (c). 2. Jon Reuben. 3. Jared Chambers. 4. Tony Tumusa. 5. Rashaun Denny. 6. Connor Broadhurst. 7. Tyson Gamble. 8. Ethan Bullemor. 9. Danny Levi. 10. Leivaha Pulu. 11. Jordan Riki. 12. Brendan Piakura. 13. Michael Sio. Interchange: 14. Tyrone Roberts. 15. Xavier Willison. 16. Michael Molo. 17. Piki Rogers. Coach: Rohan Smith.
Match officials: Jacob Whitehouse. Jack Ebert. Steve Kanowski.