14 Jan 2021

Some new faces in PNG Hunters line-up

7:49 am on 14 January 2021

Eleven new faces have been named in the Papua New Guinea Hunters rugby league squad as they prepare to relocate to Brisbane for the 2021 Queensland Intrust Super Cup season.

PNG Hunters gear up for 2021 season.

PNG Hunters gear up for 2021 season. Photo: Facebook / SP PNG Hunters

Head coach Matthew Church announced his final squad this week.

He said his selection was based on the new rules coming into effect this season, and whether players would suit that style of play.

"I looked at guys who had good leg speed and who like to play on or over the advantage line which I think will play with the new rules really well," he said.

"I have gone fairly young with the 11 new faces and most of those boys are 19, 20 or 21. I believe we're a pathway towards the NRL or Super League, so exposing our talent at a younger age is something that is hopefully going to get a few more players through the PNG pathway to the NRL or Super League."

A number of experienced players have also been selected, including PNG international Stanton Albert, Ase Boas, Enock Maki and Junior Rau.

Church said experience is crucial, especially when having to relocate to Australia full-time.

"We still need experience and we've got experienced Hunters and Kumuls which is really exciting, especially for those young guys who can soak in all that knowledge, and that will transfer down and I'm sure that will help improve them."

"We encourage all our players to be mini coaches on the field. Their experience certainly adds value to the younger guys and to the collective having been there done that and sharing that experience across the board."

PNG Hunters coach Matt Church briefs training squad.

PNG Hunters coach Matt Church briefs training squad. Photo: Facebook / SP PNG Hunters

The team will be based at Runaway Bay in Gold Coast in order to retain their place in the 2021 competition, after the 2020 Queensland Cup competition was cancelled after round one due to Covid-19.

Former PNG Kumuls, Paul Aiton, will also join the team once they exit the isolation period, after he was named as assistant coach for the Hunters this year.

Church said the squad is looking forward to the challenge.

"It's obviously a massive undertaking when you're having to relocate and we have a working group that's working towards the relocation that involves all the stakeholders," he said.

"The feeling in the group is that while obviously we're a little bit hesitant about having to relocate to another country, they're all looking forward to the challenge and the change of lifestyle and the change of culture."

It's an opportunity of a lifetime, he added.

"This opportunity that has been presented to us in 2021 has never existed in the lifetime of the Hunters, so they're taking advantage of it."

"We're going to try to reward all the boys for their sacrifice, to make sure we can open up pathways to either do some education while we're in Queenlsand or some work placement so that when we do comeback, they come back as not only better players, but better people.

The Hunters are into their second week of training since Christmas, with their departure set for the end of this month.

Church said he's excited to get back into playing games and coaching what is hopefully a longer season.

"If you had told me 12 months into my coaching career we'd be undefeated, I would have laughed in your face, but it's just the reality of what's happened around the world [because of Covid-19]."

"Personally I can't wait to get back into playing games and certainly with my coaching we can only get better by playing more games, so hopefully we get a better 2021, play the length of the season and see vast improvements across the globe."