SP PNG Hunters have been forced to make one change to their winning outfit for their Intrust Super Cup clash with the Cutters in Mackay on Saturday night.
Second-rower and vice-captain Keven Appo will miss the game after he was suspended for two matches following the Hunters’ win over Ipswich Jets before the competition was paused over the Easter weekend.
The Hunters defended Appo against a shoulder charge notice and felt they presented a good case of claiming it was a tackle gone wrong with no intent to make contact with the shoulder. However, they were unsuccessful and he will miss this third-round clash with the Cutters and the April 17 home match against Sunshine Coast Falcons.
It’s a minor setback for the 22-year-old from the outskirts of Goroka in PNG’s eastern highlands, who deferred his final year science studies at university to establish himself in the Hunters side and make the Kumuls’ squad for the upcoming World Cup. He had been in good form and thriving in a leadership role.
His place will be taken by Emmanuel Waine who has been coming off the bench and doing a fine job for Matt Church’s side who go into the match against the winless Mackay with their confidence boosted by their 44-22 win against Ipswich which followed an 18-20 loss to the unbeaten Wynnum Manly. Judah Rimbu comes on to the bench to take Waine’s spot.
“We have good depth and the boys know we have to overcome little setbacks like this and be consistent,” Church said.
“The experience of the first two rounds has been invaluable as we didn’t know quite what to expect with so many newcomers in the squad and the new experience of being away from home.
“But everyone has adapted really well and this is another challenge travelling to Mackay.”
The only other player unavailable from the Hunters squad which have taken up residence at Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast is Kumuls prop Enock Maki who is at least another two weeks away from making his first appearance for 2021 after minor surgery to remove some floating bone in his knee.
Maki’s return may be timely for the Hunters who will be at least five rounds into the season when he is available. His consistent go-forward and rugged defence will be a boost in what will be a challenging year for the squad which is based at Runaway Bay for the 2021 season because of COVID.
The Hunters will enter this weekend in fifth place while the Cutters are 12th following an opening home loss to Redcliffe and then a losing away trip to the Burleigh Bears. The plane flight to Mackay will be the Hunters’ first trip away from Runaway Bay, where Church said the team had prepared well.
SP PNG Hunters to play Mackay Cutters at BB Print Stadium, Mackay on Saturday, April 10, 6pm:
1. Terry Wapi. 2. Junior Rau. 3. Brendan Nima. 4. Jokadi Bire. 5. Brendon Gotuno. 6. Watson Boas. 7. Charlie Simon. 8. Epel Kapinias. 9. Wartovo Puara Jnr. 10. Samuel Yegip. 11. Benji Kot. 12. Emmanuel Waine. 13. Ila Alu (c). Interchange: 14. Edwin Ipape. 15. Sylvester Namo. 16. Mark Piti. 17. Judah Rimbu. Coach: Matt Church
1. Matiu Stone-Dunn. 2. Josh Smith. 3. Michael Bell. 4. Blake Paskins. 5. Kane Bradley. 6. Ata Hingano. 7. Brandon Finnegan. 8. Ross Bella. 9. Sean Mullany. 10. Emry Pere. 11. Jesse Dee. 12. Aidan Beard. 13. Jack Quinn. Interchange: 14. Kyle Krisanski- Kennedy. 15. Jack Brock. 16. Kell Jenner. 17. Morgan McWhirter. Coach: Michael Crawley.
Match officials: Sam Swift, Hayden Marl, Nathan Cornick