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The SP PNG Hunters are back for the 2024 QRL Hostplus Cup season and will resume the Hunt at the Santos National Football Stadium this Saturday, 9th March at 3pm.

It is fitting that the Hunters will kick off their 2024 campaign at the spiritual home of rugby league in Papua New Guinea given the way the proud PNG-based club finished the 2023 season.

The Hunters won three of their last four games out of the Santos NFS to round off a promising year, relishing the support of their fans and the familiar home-ground conditions. No doubt those factors will be at play again on Saturday when the Hunters host the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls in Round 1 of the QRL Hostplus Cup.

The Hunters will bring plenty of confidence into Saturday’s fixture having undergone a brutal pre-season training schedule over the summer under new Head Coach Paul Aiton. The standards have been raised and all players will be looking to impress in their first hit out of the regular season.

The Hunters recently named a deep 30-man squad for the upcoming season and will rely on a select group of club veterans to guide an exciting new crop of young talent into the Hostplus Cup competition.

Unlike at other Australian-based QRL clubs where it is common for players to notch 100, 150, even 200+ games at Hostplus Cup level, the Hunters do not have that luxury. It is a challenge to bring new players into grade and teach them the systems required to play at QRL level, but with challenges come opportunities. Each new season is an opportunity for the next young Hunter to raise their level and announce themselves on the rugby league stage; Morea Morea’s stunning 2023 season is testament to this.

With this in mind, we must remember to stay patient as these young Hunters work their way into grade.

Thankfully, the club is well served with experienced campaigners in season 2024. Club Captain Ila Alu will lead from the front as per usual while the likes of Brandon Nima, Solo Wane, Junior Rop and Vallentine Richard bring invaluable experience to the squad.

A number of next-gen stars will also return this year following impressive debut seasons in 2023. The aforementioned Morea Morea continues to work his way back from injury while Sakias Komati, Sanny Wabo, Joshua Lau, Seal Kalo and Whallan Tau-Loi are just a few potential breakout stars to watch out for this season.

In what will be the SP PNG Hunters first regular season game since August last year, we can expect a grinding affair on Saturday afternoon.

The Hunters are known for their trademark aggression in defence and we can expect no difference to open the season. Finding the balance between aggression and discipline will be the deciding factor for Coach Paul Aiton and his men this year, and we get our first glimpse at this new-look Hunters side on Saturday afternoon.

For Wynnum-Manly, the stakes are high in their first hit-out of 2024.

It’s a challenging trip to the Santos NFS and the Seagulls will need to call on all of their NRL experience to get the two-points on Saturday. Serving as a feeder club to the Brisbane Broncos, Wynnum-Manly are stacked with NRL talent and will field the likes of Delouise Hoeter and Cory Paix this weekend.

It’s an added challenge to go up against first-grade quality competition to kick off the 2024 QRL Hostplus Cup season but it’s a challenge the Hunters will relish on home soil.

Player to Watch

With superstar fullback Morea Morea still sidelined with injury, the Hunters will call on Sanny ‘The Wizz Kid’ Wabo to fill the No.1 jumper on Saturday afternoon.

Wabo was one of PNG’s best last season, coming off the bench to fill a number of roles in the spine or through the middle of the field. Blessed with lightning speed and fancy footwork, Wabo’s support play around the ruck became a point of difference for the Hunters attack in 2023.

Komati’s ability to straighten the attack with his running game was a repeatable action for the Hunters attack down that left edge last year and should be a feature again in 2024. How Komati combines with Wabo – either back on the inside like the example above or in the more traditional fullback jockey shape – will go a long way to deciding the result in this one.

This action from QRL Round 10 – ironically against the Seagulls – highlights Wabo’s promising combination with five-eighth Sakias Komati who lines up in the halves again this weekend.

Wabo’s energy and talk out the back is another invaluable aspect of his game, all be it one that won’t show up on the stats sheet. He organises the defensive line smartly and is a tireless worker on both sides of the ball.

Morea is a future superstar but in Wabo the Hunters have excellent depth in the fullback position this year.

Team List

  1. Sanny Wabo
  2. Brandon Nima
  3. Clent Lama
  4. Elijah Roltinga
  5. Solo Wane
  6. Sakias Komati
  7. Joshua Lau
  8. Valentine Richard
  9. Judah Rimbu
  10. Seal Kalo
  11. Whallan Tau-Loi
  12. Robert Mathias
  13. Ila Alu (c)
  14. Trevor Solu
  15. Jordan Pat
  16. Koso Bandi
  17. Weiyah Koi
  18. Joshua Mire
  19. Junior Rop
  20. Manisa Kai


Papua New Guinea's team participating in the Queensland Hostplus Cup

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2022 Hostplus Cup