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Stanley Tepend. Photo: PNG Hunters/QRL

Nine clubs will go into this season's Hostplus Cup with a new coach at the helm, in one of the biggest turnovers in recent years.

With the addition of the Western Clydesdales - and kick-off to season 2023 right around the corner - the Queensland Rugby League is profiling our 10 new coaches, whether they're coming from a different club or are completely new to the Cup arena.

In this edition we talk to PNG Hunters coach Stanley Tepend about learning from Wayne Bennett, the Hunters' return home and his promotion to the top job.

Coaching history

Tepend started his coaching career with the Lae Snax Tigers in Papua New Guinea's Digicel Cup in 2013. During a nine year period with the club, Tepend guided his team to four premierships and six minor premierships, finishing up with the Tigers in 2021.

During this period, Tepend also took on the role of PNG Kumuls assistant coach at the 2017 World Cup and remained in the job until 2021.

In 2022, he was appointed both assistant coach of the Hunters and head coach of the Kumuls. He is now head coach of both teams.

Stanley Tepend. Photo: PNG Hunters/QRL
Stanley Tepend. Photo: PNG Hunters/QRL

Q&A with Stanley Tepend

How did it feel to be promoted to Hunters head coach?

My appointment last year as an assistant coach (at the Hunters) was a step in the right direction. While I was assistant last year, the Kumuls job came up and it was a bit awkward and weird being the national coach while assistant to the Hunters. So now being the Hunters and Kumuls coach as well, I’m really humbled and grateful to have the two positions. It’s been a long goal to be Hunters coach - from the Digicel Cup up to the Hunters. When I was finally appointed, it was really exciting for me. It’s a relief.

What is your coaching philosophy?

I’m more of a relationships sort of coach with my players and staff. I’m really strong on team orientation. I probably get my players to play for me rather than anything else. That’s what I’ve developed over the last few years with the Tigers. That’s what we try to bring in with the Kumuls. We tried to build the team on playing for the jersey, playing for each other. That’s my philosophy. It’s relationship-building, team morale and team spirit as a key. In PNG we’re really family-orientated and if we can bring similar ways with our footy, it will go a long way.

Who would you say is your mentor or strongest influence in coaching?

For me, being from PNG and having worked with coach Michael Marum at both the international and Cup level, he’s been my biggest influence. It was only one year that I got to work with coach Matt (Church) and I appreciate him for giving me that opportunity and to be part of the Hostplus Cup. It is a whole new level. Coach Matt did give me a lot of new coaching tips that I wouldn’t have seen... they've been useful and he helped me get ready for this. Wayne Bennett had a little bit to do with us on the Gold Coast (last year) too... he’d come down once a month. At that bigger NRL level, Wayne is more of people’s coach as well. He gets the guys to play for him and the way he coaches has an affect on me.

What are your first impressions of your squad this year?

For me being involved as an assistant coach last year, I’ve worked out what we need to do at the Hunters this year. For our boys, it’s about making it really simple for them. That’s going to be my biggest job. We tend to fade off at certain parts of the game so being better for longer, that’s my biggest challenge. Most of our boys were part of the World Cup so to have been in that environment, it will be good for them to come and give back. It will be an extra boost and it will also be huge for us being back home this year. Being on the Gold Coast helped the boys to think more outside of what they’re used to. That life environment in Australia will help our boys that are in the squad, not just in football, but life. And they can pass that on to the younger and newer ones. But to be coach, having come back home, I have to use that as a big advantage. The people really missed the Hunters playing at National Football Stadium so it’s really exciting and I’m looking forward to playing back in PNG.

What are your goals for season 2023?

To start the season off well and if we can win all our home games, that will go a long way. We have spoken about that briefly. We will speak more about our targets as we progress into the pre-season. Our first two games are away games. If we can win those two to start the season well and then win all our home games, that should put us into a good pathway to be in the finals. We haven’t done that the past two years so we have to challenge ourselves.

Who within your squad will make their mark in 2023?

Rodrick Tai, our centre, it was his first year last year. He was picked for the national side, he played all the games in the World Cup and I think the second year for him, he’ll really stand up. He’ll be vital for us. Young Sherwin Tanabi, the second rower, he finished the season off well last year. He had a slow start being young and new to the environment but he really made that position his. He was also part of the World Cup. They’re two young guys to look out for. We’re really grateful they can bring the confidence from the national side back to the Hunters.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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