A new era for the Papua New Guinea Hunters rugby league team commences on Sunday, when they open their Queensland Cup campaign against the South Logan Magpies in Brisbane.
It will be the first competition game for new coach Matthew Church, who said he had already seen major improvements during the pre-season.
The Hunters played two trial games leading into the first round, with a win at home against the Central Queensland Capras and a loss to the Northern Pride in Cairns.
"They scored some outstanding tries in those trials," Church said.
"Unfortunately ball security is not up to standard, but you'd expect that in the hotter months with a lot of humidity there and sweat on the ball so we've got to really tighten up on that leading into the season this week," he said.
"In the second trial, we put ourselves under a lot of pressure by dropping the ball constantly. When we did actually hang onto it for back to back sets, we scored tries on the back of those so that's the key I think, if we can hold it, we'll be a hard team to contain."
Kicking off the year with a win in our first preseason trial match against the Central Queensland Capras. 30-12 in front of a home crowd. Lessgo Hunters! #huntwantaim #PNG #rugbyleague #sppnghunters pic.twitter.com/jdacOtCtoY— SP PNG Hunters (@PngHunters) February 22, 2020
Stanley Olo, Mark Piti and Emmanuel Waine are three new faces to join the 18-man squad this weekend, with Ila Alu, who was ruled out of the second trial match with a knee injury, also included to take on the Magpies.
The Magpies are expected to field a numbers of players contracted to play for the Brisbane Broncos including Tom Dearden, Cory Paix and Tonga international Tesi Niu.
Church said their involvement would add some pressure.
"They'll probably be the next wave of players to go through the Broncos so that'll sharpen the Souths team up quite a bit and so they'll definitely be a hard task first up."
The Hunters regrouped earlier this week after taking a few days to reset and re-energise for their season-opening match. Church said he was impressed with pre-season preparations and that the team was fit-ready for their first game.
"It's exciting when we come back together in camp after having a few days apart. It's really energised me certainly and the boys are getting there as well. I think we've worked really hard in the pre-season so fitness is not going to be of any concern."
"I think we're all excited to be back playing for competition points. We're finally coming into the new season so it's all very exciting for players and staff."