Player welfare front of mind for PNG Hunters

3:28 pm on 24 February 2021

Player welfare is a key focus for the Papua New Guinea Hunters rugby league team as they begin a two week spell in hotel quarantine.

Hunters coach Matt Church said the players were making a big sacrifice moving away from their friends and family.

Hunters coach Matt Church said the players were making a big sacrifice moving away from their friends and family. Photo: Facebook/PNG Hunters

The Hunters have relocated to Australia so they can continue competing in the Queensland Cup, after last year's competition was cancelled because of Covid-19.

Coach Matt Church said it was a huge sacrifice for the whole squad to uproot their lives and move to a new country.

"It's never easy leaving home so I'm sure the group, while excited about the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead, they were also (feeling) a bit of trepidation for them leaving friends and family for such a long period of time."

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape.

Prime Minister James Marape and Sports Minister Wesley Raminai were at the airport to see the PNG Hunters off. Photo: Facebook/PNG Hunters

24 players and six management staff departed Port Moresby on Sunday and will spend at least 14 days in managed isolation at the Quest Chermside Apartment Hotel in Brisbane.

The Hunters were originally scheduled to arrive in Australia at the end of January but their flight was delayed on three occasions and Church said the group is happy to have finally arrived at their destination.

"To check in on Sunday night into the hotel in Brisbane after a challenging time and sometimes we thought it might not happen, but we're finally here and (feeling) a mix of gratefulness and relief."

PNG Hunters coach Matt Church.

PNG Hunters coach Matt Church. Photo: Colleen Edwards /

The team's arrival in Brisbane also coincided with Matt Church's birthday. The former Queensland Under 16 coach has not seen his Brisbane-based family since early November, but was arrived at the Quest Chermside to presents that had been dropped off from his wife, step daughter and family earlier in the day.

As part of their agreement with the local health authorities, the Hunters have been paired off into bubbles of two for their stay in quarantine and will also have access to a well-being support network that's been set up by Queensland Rugby League.

"Putting them in a room by themselves with no outside access would have been very challenging so that's why we went through the exemption phase," Church said.

"Anywhere in the last two weeks we could have just returned a negative result and just flown over been treated like anyone else travelling into Australia but we tried to maintain the application so we could at least be two to a room and the boys look after their well-being that way."

PNG Hunters gear up for 2021 season.

The Hunters won't be able to train outdoors again until they are released from hotel quarantine. Photo: Facebook / SP PNG Hunters

The Hunters are due to be released from quarantine on 7 March, provided they return a negative test for Covid-19, and with their Queensland Cup opener just 13 days later the players have also been provided with plenty of exercise equipment to keep them occupied.

"In those rooms we've got an assault bike, kettle bells, resistance bands, foam rollers and all that type of stuff so there's training equipment all in the rooms," he said.

"Going through hotel isolation is not ideal with only a month out from the season starting but we have to try and keep them fit and active so we've been lucky to source all that equipment."

The rooms also come with balconies to ensure everyone has access to fresh air although the coach reckons another local landmark might be the main attraction.

"We can actually go outside and see up to the city and out to the east so a fair bit of stuff to see - I think the boys are probably looking at the McDonalds that's just across the road and wishing they could get down to there but other than that it's pretty comfortable."

Meanwhile six Hunters players have remained in Port Moresby, including the person who person who tested positive for Covid-19 on 5 February.

Matt Church said a couple of them had issues with their passport and the rest were for medical reasons. The plan is for them to join the rest of the squad in Australia in the next couple of weeks.