By Chris Garry of The Courier-Mail
ON A remote rainforest-lined beach in Kokopo, several kilometres from any sign of modern civilisation, a family living in a basic shack politely asked me what on earth I was doing.
“The Hunters, you know, the new team?” I replied in English unnecessarily broken.
I was with Israel Eliab, captain of the Hunters, and a photographer, and we had stumbled into this family’s backyard which happened to be the Pacific Ocean.
The family knew Eliab; he is a Kokopo lad and at the end of my time in the beautiful locale I referred to him as “Kokopo King”, such was the reaction of locals to him.
We were embracing this wild location in February 2014, one month before the Hunter’s first game in the Intrust Super Cup.
As we used the family’s incredible vista for photo opportunities, they made a bold prediction.
“Two years and they will win it,” the dad said.
He was adamant the untapped talent in Papua New Guinea would thrive once showcased.
He said his country, where league is the national sport, would conquer the competition in two years.
His prediction looks like materialising.
The Hunters’ win over the Blackhawks last week was sensational.
They are the only team to beat the Blackhawks twice this year.
They shot to an early lead then held off a late fight back from Kristian Woolf’s men, and emerged 28-26 victors.
“If anything, it was the highest quality game we have played so far,” Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf told the Townsville Bulletin post match.
“It was a good, tough physical game and they (PNG) are going to be very hard to beat.”
They did that without their best outside back in Thompson Teteh.
The Hunters may have to win two finals games in Queensland to take home the premiership, but they have proven this year they are not just home ground bullies.
The Hunters face another credential check this Sunday when the Easts Tigers travel to Kokopo.
The Tigers have roared back into the premiership frame recently, holding the Blackhawks to a 40-40 draw two weeks ago.
This will be a brilliant game.
My week in Papua New Guinea was amongst the most eye-opening experiences of my life.
It is a country of paradigms, of beauty and poverty nestling side-by-side.
If you ever want to get a reality check, spend a week in PNG and catch a Hunters' game while you are there.
ON THE Blackhawks – they will likely lose Neville Costigan at the end of the season as the former Origin backrower is being looked at by several NRL clubs.
The Cowboys could end up signing him, but Sydney clubs are chasing hard.
Costigan was released from his Super League contract last year on the proviso he did not sign with an NRL club.