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The SP PNG Hunters will return to the Santos National Football Stadium this Saturday, 10th June to host the Western Clydsedales in Round 13 of the QRL Hostplus Cup. Kick off is at 3pm.

Saturday’s fixture is the third of four consecutive home games the Hunters are scheduled to play at Santos NFS, and the proud PNG-based club will look to make the most of their home ground advantage this weekend.

With the hot and humid weather often a shock for Australian-based players, the Hunters enjoy a considerable advantage in the familiar conditions. Add in the influence of a stadium packed with fanatic supporters, and the Hunters will have everything in their favour when they take the field on Saturday afternoon.

The Hunters will also carry a sense of confidence and belief into their Round 13 match-up, having dominated the Tweed Seagulls 34-18 last weekend in their best performance of the season.

Despite conceding first points, the Hunters soaked up the pressure before mounting it right back on the visitors. Running in five consecutive tries midway through the match, the Hunters stuck to their gameplan and slowly ground Tweed Heads out of the contest.

The Hunters were well represented by Junior Rop in the forward pack, who consistently put the team on his back in yardage to generate post-contact metres or second-phase play. From there, the spine of Judah Rimbu, Joshua Mire, Jamie Mavoko and Morea Morea combined beautifully in attack to orchestrate a number of pleasing attacking actions.

The best part of PNG’s Round 12 win was that it came as a result of a whole-team performance. Across the park, the Hunters played to their potential and ran away deserving winners.

With Jamie Mavoko (suspended) out this week and a number of other key players (Wesser Tenza, Ila Alu, Sherwin Tanabi, Junior Igila) on the injury list, the Hunters will field a new-look team on Saturday afternoon. If they can stick to their processes and play anything like they did last week though, the home crowd will be in for another exciting and entertaining contest.

The Western Clydesdales bring a very different form line into Saturday’s match, having not tasted victory since besting the Ipswich Jets 46-10 way back in Round 7.

That result was just their second win of the 2023 season, having also made light work of the Jets two weeks earlier in Round 5.

Aside from their favourable record against Ipswich, the Clydesdales are yet to taste victory over a fellow Hostplus Cup club and they will be desperate to turn things around when they face the Hunters for the second time this year.

In Round 1 it was the Hunters who came away on top in a seesawing, 20-10 win at Clive Berghofer Stadium, Toowoomba. Now with the home ground advantage, the Hunters will be confident of going two from two in 2023 against the Hostplus Cup newcomers.

Player to Watch

PNG Hunters utility Judah Rimbu has filled a number of vacant positions across the opening few months of the season and will be asked to do so again in QRL Round 13.

He has provided wonderful versatility and coverage off the bench and at dummy-half in recent weeks but with Jamie Mavoko suspended, Rimbu will start in his preferred halfback position against the Clydesdales on Saturday.

A diminutive and clever playmaker with a strong running game, Rimbu brings a different skillset to the halfback position this weekend. He will challenge the line smartly in attack and is a real livewire with his speed and strength through contact often a problem for defending units.

With rookie five-eighth Joshua Mire in the halves beside him and two new faces at dummy-half, Rimbu will shoulder the bulk of playmaking duties this weekend and can have a real impact on the Hunters attack.  

Having spent time with The Dolphins NRL squad over the pre-season, Rimbu is well placed to continue his development as a genuine QRL half and gets his latest shot on Saturday afternoon.

Coach’s Comments

SP PNG Hunters Head Coach Stanley Tepend said that spirits have been high at training this week following their big Round 12 win over Tweed, but insists his team is still a work in progress.

“It’s been a good week at training for us. The mood has been positive,” said Tepend.

“Obviously coming off a win the spirits are high, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves and need to be better again this week.”

“We’ve had a habit of playing well one week but not backing it up in the following game, so there’s been a real focus this week on reproducing what worked for us against Tweed and not getting complacent.”

Tepend acknowledged the disruption caused by a series of injuries and suspensions, but is excited for the opportunities those changes present.

“We’ve had a bit of a reshuffle with Jamie (Mavoko) suspended and another few guys battling injuries,” Tepend said.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for some of our younger players – and some boys from Digicel Cup – to come in and get their chance. The young guys coming in could end up being the future of the club, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Tepend said the focus at training this week has been internal, however he conceded the Clydesdales will be much improved from their last meeting.

“Our focus this week has been similar to last week. We really embraced that ‘never give up’ mentality and we need to do the same again on Saturday.”

“The Clydesdales have improved a lot since we faced them in Round 1. They’re more experienced and they’ve really been pushing their opposition.”

“We’ll try to make the most of our home ground advantage and put our best foot forward. We’re expecting another big crowd at NFS and I know the boys take a lot out of that support.”

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2022 Hostplus Cup