SP PNG Hunters hope the experience of the first month of the Intrust Super Cup season serves them well when the competition resumes with their clash with the Souths Logan Magpies on Sunday afternoon.
This weekend’s Round 15 will be the first in five weeks after the competition was put on hold hours before the Hunters were to play the Wynnum Manly Seagulls due to a Covid lockdown in southeast Queensland.
All Intrust Super Cup teams are confronting the rarest of scenarios – resuming a competition that has been placed on hold only weeks out from the finals.
But the Hunters have been through a similar scenario this season – they were unable to play trial matches before Round 1 as they endured almost a month in quarantine. The Hunters then came out and almost stunned Wynnum Manly before reeling off a three-game winning streak that remains their best this season.
Hunters coach Matt Church hopes that experience helps the Hunters when they head to their adopted home of Bycroft Oval on the northern end of the Gold Coast to play finals hopefuls Souths Logan.
“We’re all excited to be back playing football and there is a good mood in the squad after waiting this long to play again,” Church said.
“It’s hard to know what to expect across the competition. Some of the teams didn’t miss a training session because they weren’t in lockdown areas while others, like us, were unable to train together for a few weeks.
“It will be a test physically for teams late in the game after missing a month but the excitement of being back out there will help. And we know that the guys performed well at the start of the season in a similar situation so that will be a help.”
Church hopes his team can show the firepower that flattened Northern Pride when the Hunters travelled to far North Queensland to defeat the likely finalists two weeks before the lockdown.
The Hunters will have one of their strongest line-ups of the season with the break enabling some players to overcome niggling injuries. Keven Appo is still dealing with an ankle injury and will not play.
The Hunters have an excellent record against the Magpies with 12 wins from their previous 14 matches although Souths Logan overcame a spirited PNG team to win their clash earlier this season.
Souths Logan are locked in a fierce fight for the bottom half of the top eight, with one win separating teams placed sixth to ninth.
The Magpies have not named any of their Broncos-affiliated NRL players, instead relying on their own contracted list including exciting five-eighth Ezra Mam in the halves with former Queensland Under 18s player Joshua James.
Mam equalled the Magpies’ single-game scoring record when he scored 26 points against Tweed Seagulls in the last round.
Church has worked previously with Mam when he was a member of the Queensland junior teams, showcasing the talent that has him marked as a player to watch.
The SP PNG Hunters to play Souths Logan Magpies at Bycroft Oval, Runaway Bay on Sunday August 29 at 2.10pm:
SP PNG HUNTERS: 1. Terri Wapi. 2. Junior Rau. 3. Gilmo Paul. 4. Emmanuel Waine. 5. Solo Wane. 6. Ase Boas. 7. Charlie Simon. 8. Stanton Albert. 9. Wartovo Puara Jnr. 10. Enock Maki. 11. Benji Kot. 12. Epel Kapinias. 13. Ila Alu (capt). Interchange: 14. Edwin Ipape. 15. Samuel Yegip. 16. Dilbert Isaac. 17. Jordan Pat. 18. Judah Rimbu. Coach: Matt Church.
SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES: 1. Creedence Toia. 2. Benaiah Bowie. 3. Ethan Quai-Ward. 4. Isaiah Tass. 5. Jack Goodsell. 6. Ezra Mam. 7. Joshua James. 8. Fabien Paletua-Kiri. 9. Christian Hazard. 10. Logan Bayliss-Brow. 11. Kobe Tararo. 12. Jacob Alick. 13. Rory Ferguson. Interchange: 14. Brad Frith. 15. Jacob Elmore. 16. Raiden Fonoti. 20. Justin Fai. Coach: Steve Bretherton.
Match officials: Nick Pelgrave, Sam Swift, Matt Colclough.