8 Apr 2020

Sport: PNG Hunters hope local rugby league will relieve pressure

8:14 am on 8 April 2020

An opportunity to compete in Papua New Guinea's local domestic rugby league competition, the Digicel Cup, is on the cards for the PNG Hunters after the Queensland-based Intrust Super Cup competition was cancelled due to Covid-19.

PNG Hunters training session.

PNG Hunters training session. Photo: Facebook / SP PNG Hunters

While staff and players awaited news from the PNGRFL, coach Matthew Church said competing in the domestic competition had been discussed.

"There's an opportunity for the domestic competition up there to resume," he said.

"I've been in contact with the guy that runs the competition up there, [Competition Manager] Stanley Hondina, so he has got a few proposals as well going forward with return dates depending on how long they need to be out of action for," Church said.

"We've put together a couple of proposals to put to the Board if we were to resume a modified programme, but obviously that's going to be reliant on funding and where that sits with the decisions being made in the next week or so."

The Hunters were cleared to rejoin their families after completing their 14-day quarantine last week, following their return from their Intrust Super Cup opening round in Brisbane.

PNG Rugby League chairman Sandis Tsaka (L) shakes hands with new Papua New Guinea Hunters coach Matt Church.

PNG Rugby League chairman Sandis Tsaka (L) shakes hands with new Papua New Guinea Hunters coach Matt Church. Photo: Supplied/PNGRFL

Church said despite the cancellation of the season and restrictions put in place, he expected players to continue training.

"It's a weird feeling that we're now in April and there's no footy happening anywhere around the world and so it's all still a bit of a shock to the system," he said.

"So our main goal would be for our guys to stay fit and to get themselves, at the very least, into a Digicel Cup team if we don't have a programme going forward."

PNG Hunters' players hit the gym

PNG Hunters' players hit the gym Photo: PNG HUNTERS

For some of the full-time players, rugby league was their only source of income and with no competitions or games being played, Church said he'll be pushing his hardest to ensure the players were being looked after.

"Most of them are full-time players so what that looks for them beyond I guess is reliant on the Board making certain decisions and what sort of funding [there is], but obviously we want to make sure that their welfare is looked after," he said.

"The fact is that we're sponsored by companies and all those companies will be taking a fair hit - I don't think anyone is immune to what's going on at the moment - but I'll be pushing my hardest to make sure we are looking after our players. "

"I guess we just need to see what that looks like once decisions are made and hopefully those Digicel Cup franchises can return, so at the very least, we can get our guys back playing at that level and they can earn some money while looking after their families."

PNG Hunters side at the 2020 Queensland ISC launch.

PNG Hunters side at the 2020 Queensland ISC launch. Photo: Facebook / SP PNG Hunters