Sport: PNG Hunters tipped to struggle in 2019

1:35 pm on 8 March 2019

The Papua New Guinea Hunters are being tipped to struggle in the Intrust Super Cup rugby league competition this year, following a major overhaul of their playing squad.

The 2017 Premiers missed the playoffs last year while a number of senior players have departed for clubs in the UK and Australia, leaving new captain Adex Wera as the only player left from their inaugural campaign in 2014.

PNG Hunters captain Adex Wera (R) and vice-captain Moses Meninga (L).

PNG Hunters captain Adex Wera (R) and vice-captain Moses Meninga (L). Photo: Facebook/SP PNG Hunters

Our PNG correspondent Melvin Levongo said the loss of so much experience will be difficult to overcome.

"You've got important positions like in the halves the Boas brothers (Ase and Watson have left the club) and then we had (front rowers) Willie Minoga, Wartovo Puara - those are part of the grand final winning team and they were the backbone of the Hunters attack going forward," he said.

"For the new season a lot of the boys are straight from the Digicel Cup, the semi-professional competition here. A lot of boys are new with no experience at all and they might be looking up at players like Stanton Albert, who has been with the (Penrith) Panthers and the forwards will be looking for experience.

"It's a new team definitely with big shoes left by the Boas brothers, Willie Minoga, Thomson Teteh - it's going to be large shoes to fill for the young team."

Brothers Ase and Watson Boas will be directing the Hunters from the halves.

Ase and Watson Boas are now playing in the UK. Photo: Supplied/Melvin Levongo

Melvin Levongo said the departure of so many players does present a big opportunity for some new faces to step up.

"We have young players like William Mone - he's been part of the Hunters team but hasn't really played a game," he said.

"Then we have Charlie Simon - he was being the understudy of Ase Boas for the past two years. It's a great opportunity for him because he will have the first crack at playing at five eighth.

"Then we have players coming from the Digicel Cup - young players like Kevin Appo, a young forward, and then we have Justin Yoka, another player who plays in the halves - half back or five eight - so it's a good opportunity," he said.

"Also for the fringe players - players that didn't have a lot of game-time in the past years - it's time for them to step up and take up the responsibility."

The 2019 PNG Hunters squad.

The 2019 PNG Hunters squad. Photo: Facebook/SP PNG Hunters

The Intrust Super Cup have expanded their finals series from six to eight teams for 2019.

The Hunters have made the playoffs in three of their previous five campaigns but Melvin Levongo said it will be a tough ask to replicate this year.

"A lot of people are thinking it might be a tough season. They haven't really seen the players and the Digicel Cup is another level from the Intrust Super Cup," he said.

"The team that won the grand final has set a benchmark really high so the coaching staff and everyone don't want to put pressure on the young team to match that standard.

"Good things take time so they're saying just to focus on every game round after round and hopefully they can go ahead and make the people and the country proud."

The PNG Hunters kick off the new season away to the Tweed Heads Seagulls on Sunday.

The PNG Hunters have won three of four games so far this season.

The Hunters kick off their season against Tweed Heads Seagulls. Photo: Courtesy of