RIKKI-LEE ARNOLD | The Courier-Mail
BRISBANE - WHEN COACH Michael Marum talks about what Sunday’s Intrust Super Championship means to the PNG Hunters, it’s not just another chance to win for their country, but also for their state.
Marum’s team made history last weekend, when they claimed their first Intrust Super Cup premiership.
Today they represent the entire Queensland competition as they come up against the winners of the NSW competition, the Penrith Panthers.
For Marum, this means that for at least one day, the Hunters will be Queenslanders.
“We now represent the country and Queensland,” he said.
“We won’t let our country and our state down in Sydney. It’s important to us because now we can prove that our competition is tougher than NSW.”
Given how much Papua New Guineans love rugby league, it is hardly a surprise the Hunters are thriving on the chance to represent the Sunshine State.
Their victory song is the same “aye aye yippee yippee aye” tune made famous by the Maroons on the Origin stage.
After their stunning, last-minute 12-10 victory over the Sunshine Coast Falcons at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, skipper Ase Boas said that the team knew they had to fight until the dying seconds because “that’s what this ground is about”.
It’s clear they are proud to be in the Queensland competition.
And in return they hope plenty of Queenslanders rally around them today.
With their match the curtain-raiser to the NRL grand final, there will no doubt be plenty of Cowboys and Storm fans in the crowd and Channel 9 commentator Scott Sattler said everyone needed to get behind the Hunters.
A former Maroons player himself, Sattler said what the Hunters did against the Falcons was “Origin-like”.
“It’s fair to say if you broke the game down and looked at them from a statistical point of view, it wasn’t a great game to watch and it was one of their worst performances of the year,” Sattler said of the Hunters.
“But the emotional attachment to the game, that second half, the way it finished ... everyone forgets the standard of the game.
“What they did, it was Origin-like. They shouldn’t have been in the game but they were, purely based on their ability to never give up. They stayed in the game based on pure resilience and toughness.”
After they played in front of a record 11,260-strong crowd last Sunday, Sattler said he thinks the Hunters will have plenty of support again at ANZ Stadium.
“It’s the perfect scenario for every Queenslander,” he said.
“They have the Cowboys or Storm … now they’ve got the PNG Hunters side.
“Even though they’re representing their country, they have also won the hearts and minds of all Intrust Super Cup fans.
“This team has captivated the whole state … this team has an emotional attachment to every Queensland fan.”
PNG Hunters v Penrith Panthers
2.40pm Sunday (Queensland time) at ANZ Stadium. Broadcast live on Channel 9
Hunters: 1. Stargroth Amean, 22. Wawa Paul, 3. Bland Abavu, 4. Adex Wera, 5. Butler Morris, 6. Ase Boas (c), 7. Watson Boas, 8. Wellington Albert, 9. Wartovo Puara, 10. Stanton Albert, 11. David Loko, 12. Nixon Putt, 13. Moses Meninga, 14. Rahdly Brawa, 15. Willie Minoga, 16. Enock Maki, 17. Brandy Peter, 18. Esau Siune. Coach: Michael Marum
Panthers: 1. Mason Cerruto, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Jed Cartwright, 4. Tony Satini, 5. Christian Crichton, 6. Jarome Luai, 7. Darren Nicholls (c), 8. Moses Leota, 9. Mitch Rein, 10. Sitaleki Akauola, 11. Viliame Kikau, 12. Kaide Ellis, 13. Sione Katoa, 14. Tom Eisenhuth, 15. Corey Waddell, 16. Nick Lui-Toso, 17. Jack Hetherington, 18. Lachlan Stein, 19. Oliver Clark. Coach: Garth Brennan