PNG Hunters pre-season squad named

6:43 pm on 20 November 2020

The Papua New Guinea Hunters rugby league coach, Matt Church, has announced his pre-season train-on squad for the 2021 Queensland Intrust Super Cup season.

PNG Hunters training session.

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

The squad is made up of 37 players, which includes eight players each from the Hela Wigmen and the Lae Snax Tigers, who played in the 2020 Digicel Cup grand final.

Church said he selected a mix of experienced and new players to ensure a transition of leadership in the future.

"We've gone with a number of experienced names that most would recognise from Paupa New Guinea but also, we've looked to go young with some of the new guys that we've brought in too," he said.

"I think that we need to sort of start looking to that because some of our older guys are going to transition out of our programme in the next few years, so we're looking to make sure we transition the leadership across to the younger guys."

The team will base themselves in Queensland for the 2021 Intrust Super Cup in order to retain their place in the competition, after this years season was cancelled due to Covid-19.

Church admits not all players have commited to moving yet, but there are plans in place if players decide not to relocate.

"We've got contingencies in place if guys decide not to come in or don't want to transfer to Queensland and we can't blame them, we need to respect their decision."

"We also need to make sure that welfare is paramount as well because we don't want to be relocating someone who might struggle with Australian life, perhaps they don't speak enough english or enough to get by or to transition. It will certainly be a decision that we have to make, but we've got contingencies outside the squad of guys that we've identified that we can bring in."

He said some players had signed a document saying they were committed to relocating, but more discussions needed to be made with both players and staff moving forward.

"Everything seems to be moving in a positive direction. We narrowed our location down to south east Queensland and I think it's beneficial for our guys who are used to travelling two hours on a plane each way to Queensland."

"Some of them signed a document to say they were willing to make the sacrifice to relocate for the good of the game in PNG, but again it will come down to individual people."

"I'm still yet to have some discussions with some staff because they might be in the same boat as well, so I guess we'll cross that bridge in the next few weeks when we get together."

After spending eight months at his home in Australia since the Queensland Cup was cancelled, Church said he's happy to be home.

PNG Hunters coach Matt Church

PNG Hunters coach Matt Church Photo: PNG HUNTERS

"It's good to be back and to start having those conversations, and catching up with everyone, and to build on the relationships that we've already started."

"I watched the games each week. I would download all the Digicel Cup games off online and so with almost every game that's been loaded on I've been able to do talent identification through that process, so I'm really excited and really looking forward to meeting some of these guys coming in and I'd be pretty happy if we could progress with the 37 I named."

The team will assemble on November 29 where they will undergo a medical and fitness test on arrival. They will relocate to Queensland in January.