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Fresh off the back of a dominant 36-22 win over a strong Wynnum-Manly side last weekend, the SP PNG Hunters will this week travel to Rockhampton to take on the Central Queensland Capras in Round 2 of the QRL Hostplus Cup.

The sample size is only small but the early signs are promising for the SP PNG Hunters under new head coach Paul Aiton. 

Up against a Seagulls side littered with NRL contracted talent last week (Cory Paix, Delouise Hoeter, Kurt Falls, Jock Madden and Jaiyden Hunt), a fresh-faced Hunters outfit rose to the challenge to orchestrate a number of slick scoring actions across the field. 

Hunters fans will do well to remember that combinations and cohesion are an integral part of rugby league and it is important we give these young Hunters time to find their feet at QRL level. 

That being said, those same young Hunters seemed to relish the occasion in their first hit-out at the Santos National Football Stadium last Saturday. 

Centres Clent Lama (three tries) and Elijah Roltinga (10 carries for 110 metres) were a constant threat to the defence on debut while the unfamiliar spine combination of Sanny Wabo, Sakias Komate, Joshua Lau and Judah Rimbu looked extremely comfortable and confident within their roles across the park. 

To pile on 36 points from seven tries in their first game of the season is a big confidence booster for Coach Pual Aiton’s men but it was their improvements without the ball that should be most encouraging for the Hunters faithful. 

On average last year the Hunters missed 37 tackles per game; the fourth most of any club in the competition. Fast forward to Round 1, 2024 and this Hunters outfit missed just 23 tackles against a stacked Wynnum-Manly side. Only the Tigers, Devils and Blackhawks missed less tackles to kickoff the 2024 regular season. 

In what ultimately became the theme of last week’s contest, the Hunters consistently forced the Seagulls to work hard for their points. Wynnum-Manly came away with four well constructed tries in the end, but not after the Hunters managed to repel them two, three or even four times in the lead up. 

By asking their opposition to throw that extra pass or make that extra effort to score, the Hunters gave us a glimpse of what they’ve worked so hard on over the pre-season.

The Hunters will need to be at their defensive best again if they are to contain a CQ Capras side that also started fast in their 2024 Hostplus Cup campaign last week.

The Central-Queensland based side made light work of the Western Clydesdales in QRL Round 1, winning 28-10 thanks largely to the work of their back five. All players in the Capras backline ran for 100+ metres last week, allowing their forward pack to keep fresh and front-load their efforts in defence. 

It’s a tactic that has served the Penrith Panthers well in the NRL over the last few seasons and will need to be an area of focus for the Hunters in Rockhampton on Saturday. 

Player to Watch

It’s been a bit of a slow burn for Hunters prop-forward Jordan Pat but he enjoyed a breakout game in Round 1 of the 2024 QRL Hostplus Cup season. 

Pat has managed 17 QRL appearances since making his Hunters debut back in 2019 but was a different beast on Saturday afternoon, tipping the game in PNG’s favour when the contest was still in the balance. 

The Wynnum-Manly defence simply had no answers last week as Pat clocked an enormous 195 running metres (66 in post-contact) from 15 bruising hit-ups, busting 10 tackles on his way to the second try of his Hostplus Cup career. 

The Hunters strength has always been in their pack and the emergence of Pat – alongside a number of other young forwards – can add another element to their forward rotation this year. 

With experienced campaigners Junior Rop, Ila Alu and Valentine Richard all familiar faces to pack down in the Hunters scrum, Pat is providing wonderful competition for positions alongside the likes of Seal Kalo, Weiyah Koi and Koso Bandi.

The club’s forward stocks appear in good health if these young Hunters can continue on their current trajectory. 

Team List

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

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2022 Hostplus Cup