PNG Hunters coach Matt Church is counting on a familiar face and fresh talents to help lift the side in the 2020 season.
Powerful forward Rahdly Brawa returns to the squad after one year away in Australia with Wynnum Manly Seagulls, but all the club’s other signings have earned their place via the Digicel Cup.
“My appointment was made fairly late in the year, so a squad of 40 was essentially picked for me and we whittled that down to 30 and there were a couple of stand-outs there, guys like Casey Dickson and Emmanuel Waine,” Church said.
“Emmanuel had a really good season in the Digicel Cup. The players are raw, but they are balls of muscle and they go 100 miles an hour, so we are looking to educate them on how to play at Intrust Super Cup level. They have certainly stood out.
“They are both backrowers essentially, Casey is probably going to play through the middle because he is probably a little bit bigger, so we will look at playing him through the middle a bit throughout the year.”
It will also be a family affair at the club, with Kimbe Cutters forward Steven Bruno also joining the squad, a younger brother to former Hunter and current team trainer Joe Bruno.
“Steve has only started playing rugby league in the last few years, so it is remarkable he has turned to rugby league (from soccer) and has got picked in the side,” Church said.
“His older brother is a former Hunter and he is on our staff, I keep telling Joe they will be the best brothers to have played for the Hunters, considering we have had Watson and Ase (Boas)!”
Ase Boas was recently unveiled at the club's season launch as the player to lead the side in the 2020 season, with Ila Alu his deputy.
“I think Ase speaks for himself... former captain, premiership winning captain, he was also player of the match in that premiership, so his leadership speaks for itself,” Church said when asked about the appointments of his captain and vice captain.
“There’s a number of guys, (PNG Kumuls) Test guys that are in that older bracket, so we looked at that, and that there is probably going to be a vacuum of leadership leaving in the next few years as those guys progress out of our system; so being able to offer someone like Ila Alu the opportunity to learn off someone like Ase is certainly something I wanted to do.
“Ila – with the pre-season that he has had – pretty much picked himself to be vice captain.
“We actually did a little bit of a survey on what leadership looks like and made the players vote and the staff vote and Ila got the most votes out of all of that, so that was a remarkable pre-season for him and he has led by action and his communication is there as well, so basically he picked himself.”
Papua New Guinea gains and losses
Rahdly Brawa (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Steven Bruno (Kimbe Cutters), Francis Takai (Rabaul Gurias), Emmanuel Waine (Hela Wigmen), Casey Dickson (Lae Tigers), Mark Piti (Lae Tigers)
Moses Meninga (Townsville Blackhawks), McKenzie Yei (CQ Capras), Baundo Aba (released), Bland Abavu (released), Dilbert Isaac (released), Gairo Kapana (released), Woods Kawage (released), Butler Morris (released), Jerry Teme (released), Adex Wera (released), Daniel Tapol (released), Paul Wawa (released)
2020 gains and losses