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The SP PNG Hunters will resume the hunt in QRL Hostplus Cup Round 3 when they host the Sunshine Coast Falcons at the Santos National Football Stadium this Saturday, 23rd March. Kickoff is at 3pm. 

Both sides will be looking to bounce back after challenging matchups last weekend against the Capras and Cutters, respectively. 

The Hunters travelled to Rockhampton in Round 2 where they met a determined and disciplined Central-Queensland outfit who ran away with a 38-18 victory, while the Falcons went down on home soil to a red hot Mackay side.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Sunshine Coast club this week as they travel to Port Moresby – arguably one of the toughest road trips in the competition – in search of their second win of the season. 

Given their affiliation with the Melbourne Storm, the Falcons roster is often littered with NRL talent. Sunshine Coast regulars like Tyran Wishart, Aaron Pene, Alec MacDonald and Grant Anderson have all featured at different times for the Storm in recent years and are a chance of playing first-grade again this weekend. The Falcons boast great depth in their roster and will roll out a formidable side on Saturday but any late changes could end up favouring the home side. 

Despite both clubs coming off tough losses, the Falcons and Hunters bring very different formlines into this Saturday’s matchup.

Where Sunshine Coast were comprehensively beaten by Mackay across the paddock in Round 2, the proud Papua New Guinean club will know they beat themselves against the Capras last week.

It was only a slew of relieving yardage penalties that allowed Central Queensland to stay in the contest last weekend which makes things very simple for the Hunters coming into this Saturday’s matchup; tighten up their discipline and this Hunters squad will be very hard to beat. 

Coaches Comments

Despite finishing on the wrong end of the scoreboard last week, there were still plenty of positives for Head Coach Paul Aiton to take away from last week’s loss.

Discipline and completion rates were the focus in Round 2 and the Hunters showed what they could do in attack on the back of a 76% completion rate. 

“We shot ourselves in the foot with too many penalties last week but I thought we used the ball well in attack at different times,” said Aiton. 

“We’ve shown what we can do when we hold the ball and tighten up our defence. The focus again this week will be tidying up those penalties and making sure we’re not giving the Falcons free passage out of their own end.”

The relatively unfamiliar spine combination of Sanny Wabo, Sakias Komati, Joshua Lau and Judah Rimbu is tracking nicely with all four players involved in most of the Hunters more promising actions last week.

Rimbu’s pass selection from behind the ruck has already netted him one try assist this season while his running game is beginning to create opportunities for the players around him. 

Sakias Komati finished up on the highlight reel with this solo four-pointer but it was the work of Rimbu one tackle earlier that scrambled the Capras defensive line and created the space for Komati to score. 

The quickest route to the tryline is often straight ahead and the Hunters have the squad to embrace that approach on Saturday afternoon. 

Valentine Richards, Robert Mathias and Junior Rop are all back on the extended team list this week to bolster an already stacked forward rotation featuring Jordan Pat, Seal Kalo, Koso Bandi and skipper Ila Alu. On paper, this Hunters squad profiles well to bash the door down through the middle of the field and attack on the back of momentum generated early in sets. 

The advantage of a home crowd is not lost on these Hunters players who will relish the chance to perform in front of their families and friends again this weekend. 

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Player to Watch

Young Hunters outside back Elijah Roltinga is just two games into his QRL Hostplus Cup career but has shown plenty of promise over the opening fortnight.

Former Hunter and current PNG Kumuls star Rodrick Tai has left some big shoes to fill in that right centre position but Roltinga has wasted no time to stamp his claim on the vacant No.4 jersey. 

Like Tai before him, Roltinga is a big body and an aggressive defender on the edges. In one of the more difficult and technical defensive positions on the field, Roltinga made some great reads from the centres in Round 1 to fly in off his line and shut down an attacking raid. 

Against the Capras last weekend Roltinga’s movements and positioning were better still, making 15 tackles for just one miss and supporting his halfback Joshua Lau confidently on the edge. Roltinga’s quick adjustments from week-to-week suggest he is a real student of the game and a keen learner at this stage of his Hostplus Cup career. 

It’s with the ball in hand though that Roltinga is proving his worth for the Hunters to kickoff season 2024. With an average 99 running metres and multiple tackle busts in both appearances to date, Roltinga is helping the Hunters to work out of the backfield and into attacking territory. 

As Lau grows in confidence as a playmaker at QRL level and Roltinga develops combinations with the players around him, we can expect him to gradually become more heavily involved in the Hunters good-ball attack. 

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. Jordan Pat
  11. Whallan Tau-Loi
  12. Robert Mathias
  13. Ila Alu (c)
  14. Finley Glare
  15. Koso Bandi
  16. Weiyah Koi
  17. Joshua Mire
  18. Junior Rop

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2022 Hostplus Cup