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The SP PNG Hunters are back on the road following the Easter Weekend break, travelling to Piggabeen Sports Complex to take on the Tweed Seagulls in Round 4 of the QRL Hostplus Cup. Kickoff is at 5:00pm this Saturday, 6th of April.

The Hunters have made a positive start to their 2024 campaign to register two wins from their first three games. 

Both wins over the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls and Sunshine Coast Falcons came on home soil as the Hunters work to re-establish the fortress that is the Santos National Football Stadium. Widely recognised as one of the more challenging road-trips in the QRL Hostplus Cup, the Hunters enjoy a considerable home ground advantage in Port Moresby and can build their season around a consistent home form. 

A disappointing journey to Rockhampton in Round 2 delivered Papua New Guinea’s only loss of the regular season so far against a stacked Central-Queensland Capras outfit, and Hunters Head Coach Paul Aiton is looking forward to applying some of the lessons learned from that loss on Saturday.

“I thought we could’ve prepared a little better (in Round 2),” said Aiton. 

“It was a good lesson for us. There’s a few things we’ll do differently this time to manage the travel a little better and ensure the players are prepared as best they can.”

“We’re looking forward to the challenge on Saturday.”

Despite that Round 2 loss, life under new Head Coach Aiton has begun well for this current crop of SP PNG Hunters.

While difficult to see to the untrained eye, Aiton has made some major changes to how this Hunters squad approaches their footy on both sides of the ball. Playing with more direction around the ruck and more confidence on the edges, the Hunters attack has racked up 76 points in three games to rank fourth in the QRL going into Round 4. 

The benefit of having experience in key playmaking positions – namely in the spine – is another reason for the Hunters positive start to the year. The likes of Ila Alu, Judah Rimbu and Sakias Komati know what is required at Hostplus Cup level and are helping guide the next generation of Hunters into grade. 

It’s in defence though where Aiton and his coaching staff have clearly invested most of their time over the off-season, and those efforts are already paying dividends to begin the year. 

The Hunters ability to absorb pressure with their defence and repel the opposition from their own try line in consecutive sets is not something we’ve seen consistently from PNG in recent seasons. And by improving their discipline and minimising errors, the Hunters are reducing the defensive pressure they place on themselves within games.

While it’s still early days and there is plenty of room for improvement, this current Hunters squad is clearly trending in the right direction and gets a chance to improve further still when they meet the winless Tweed Seagulls on Saturday night. 

Tweed have endured a very tough start to the season and will be desperate to kickstart their 2024 campaign in QRL Round 5. Across the opening month of the competition the Seagulls were bested by two current Top Four sides (Northern Pride & Burleigh Bears) while falling just short to the Souths-Logan Magpies in Round 2. 

Don’t let their ladder position fool you though – this Tweed outfit is stacked with QRL quality.

Seagulls fullback Lindon McGrady one of the best attacking players in the Hostplus Cup competition and Jacob Alick, Iszac Fa’asuamaleaui and Tom Weaver give Tweed invaluable NRL experience this weekend. 

A team with this much attacking quality can be dangerous when desperate and the Hunters will need to be at their defensive best to claim the two-points on Saturday night.  

Player to Watch

The SP PNG Hunters have debuted a number of young stars already this season and rookie left-centre Clent Lama is relishing the faith shown in him by Head Coach Paul Aiton.

Named in the No.3 jumper in QRL Round 1, Lama hasn’t looked back to be one of the Hunters attacking best in all three games to start the year. 

The young outside back is feasting on the ballplaying of five-eighth Sakias Komati and fullback Sanny Wabo further in-field to register four tries and one try assist from his first three Hostplus Cup games. Blessed with a strong fend and great footwork, Lama’s combination with Komati can become a feature of the Hunters attack moving forward. 

The efforts of veteran winger Brandon Nima on Lama’s outside cannot be understated, either. 

Now in his sixth QRL Hostplus Cup season, Nima has cut out the errors to offer his team a reliable yardage game and some sound defensive reads on that left edge. Nima is helping Lama with his positioning and decision making in the centres – arguably one of the most difficult places to defend – while also complimenting him nicely in attack. 

With two tries and another two assists already this season, Nima is statistically enjoying a career year in 2024 and looks to have made that left wing position his own. He and Lama only need to stay on the field this season to further build their combination and provide some genuine stability and strike on PNG’s left edge. 

Team List

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

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2022 Hostplus Cup