23 Mar 2019

Sport: PNG Hunters rings changes after winless start

12:31 pm on 23 March 2019

Debutant Justin Yoka will make his debut at five-eighth as the Papua New Guinea Hunters rugby league team chase their first win of the Intrust Super Cup season.

The 20 year old was spotted by coach Michael Marum while playing for the Highlands Confederate during the National Championships last September.

He starts in the halves alongside William Mone, with Charlie Simon switching to hooker in place of Patrick Morea.

Our correspondent in Papua New Guinea, Melvin Levongo, said the previous halves combination was not clicking but warns Justin Yoka can expect a baptism of fire in his first game.

"Justin Yoka is a good lad. I believe in him but given the fact that there's a mounting pressure, especially for a young guy they are throwing straight into the hot seat so how he handles the pressure and how he handles with the game is up to his mind," he said.

"He has to be focused, he has to just play his normal game because there's a mounting pressure going on at the Hunters - they have to start winning games if they want to go on and make the eight or if they want to start the season properly."

The 2019 PNG Hunters squad.

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

Hunters coach Michael Marum has rung the changes for Sunday's round three clash against Sunshine Coast Falcons in Port Moresby, with Wawa Paul recalled on the right wing and Stanton Albert promoted from the bench to start at lock.

Marum said Bland Abavu switches to fullback, with Joe Joshua starting in the centres, while Junior Rop replaces Daniel Tapol in the second row.

"They had a big win last weekend - they beat (defending champions) Redcliffe 30 points to 6 - so we can't keep trialling players or keep saying these boys are young and new. They need to step up to the occasion and show us what they can do."

Meanwhile the Hunters are advertising for a new assistant coach after Nigel Hukula left the club to pursue other interests, after more than three years with the team.