Regular readers of The Gurgler website will know we are huge fans of the PNG Hunters, and couldn’t be more excited about the PNG Hunters 2017 season.
After getting excited about the Hunters in 2015 leading into the finals, even getting an article posted at the respected Roar website, it’s safe to say we were a little disappointed with the end result of 2016.
PNG Hunters 2017 season looks to be one full of promise with some key players returning to the fold, as well as keeping a good chunk of last season’s side.
One of the Hunters best for 2015, Israel Eliab, has returned from London and will no doubt make a huge difference. There will also be no more of a big impact than the big man Willie Minoga returning from a season at Townsville.
2016 AT A GLANCE
Last Year: 4th. Knocked out in the first week of the finals by Sunshine Coast at home.
Played 23 – 15 wins – 8 losses – For 541 Against 421
The Hunters season ended with the rarest of home losses to the Falcons in the first week of the finals, that’s after beating them easily in Round25 the week before.
Truth be told it was the dreadful away form that cost the PNG Hunters from finishing higher on the ladder, and a turn around in that alongside the continued home dominance will see them hopefully get close to the minor premiership.
They also lost some of that spark in 2016, it seemed they attempted to play rugby league too much like the standard issue NRL. That’s not why we love the PNG Hunters, and will put up with the occasional mistake to see a style of rugby league so unique.
Hopefully some of the returning stars and new recruits will also turn this team from a top 4 side to premiership winners. We believe they will.
PNG HUNTERS 2017 STATS THAT MATTER
2017 Premiership Odds: $8
TEAM INS AND OUTS
Albert Wellington (Penrith Under 20), Stanton Albert (Penrith Under 20), Willie Minoga (Townsville Blackhawks), Israel Eliab (London Broncos), David Loko (Lae Snacks Tigers), Moses Meninga (Hagen Eagles), Wawa Paul (Enga Mioks), Junior Rop (Lae Snacks Tigers)
Noel Zeming (work commitments), Thompson Teteh (Redcliffe Dolphins), Justin Olam (Melbourne Storm NRL), Adam Korave (released), Warren Glare (released), Brandy Peter (Souths Logan)
1ST THREE GAMES
Away v Central Capras – Saturday 4th March 6:00pm
Home v Easts Tigers – Sunday 12th March 3:00pm
Away v Souths Logan Magpies – Sunday 19th March 2:00pm
Want more games? Check out the PNG Hunters Full Draw and SEQ Games list here.
2017 SEASON PREDICTION
3rd – Premiers & State Champions. Plus cult heroes of rugby league.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Willie Minoga – The man with nicknames ranging from the Raging Bull to Mack Truck to Freight Train is one player to watch in 2017, and no surprise if you have followed anything we have written over the past few seasons.
Hell, he even won our Person of the Year poll in 2015.
The bullocking forward returns to the Hunters after playing for the Townsville Blackhawks in 2016, and his return hopefully means that the PNG Hunters will not only be stronger this season, but will play with a little more flair and oomph.
The winner of the Intrust Super Cup’s fan favourite award in 2015 will no doubt continue to have his cult following in 2017, and is worth checking out if you haven’t seen him in action yet.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN 2017
After a disappointing end to 2016 where they suffered their first loss in PNG since their first season in 2014 in the first week of the finals to the Sunshine Coast, the Hunters will be looking to improve and they have recruited like they intend to do just that in 2017.
They welcome back former players Israel Eliab from the London Broncos, and Willie Minoga from Townsville for 2017, arguably two of their biggest contributors to their success in 2015 where they finished 2nd but bowed out of the finals with two straight losses.
In addition to the returnees are the duo from Penrith, adding some real quality to the side lacking in experience of the NRL system.
But it is not just the names you know when it comes to the Hunters, as the real excitement is getting to know the new players plucked from the local competition and given their chance in Hunters colours. Like the crop of 2016 discoveries Watson Boas and Butler Morris.
One issue the PNG side will need to address in 2017 is their dreadful away form. The Hunters won just X games on the road in 2016, and will need that to improve if they are to finish in the top 2, and indeed challenge for the title as they will need to win in Brisbane at some stage to lift the trophy.
Hopefully the Hunters will return to their strengths and a slightly more devil may care style this season, as they looked a little too much like a regular rugby league team in 2016, and as such weren’t as successful.
One last word on the PNG Hunters. Let’s hope the powers that be gives them a televised game in 2017. Many fans would love to feel the atmosphere of a home game at Port Moresby. It would be a great general rugby league story if the QRL or whichever decision maker had the courage to do so.
Overall we say premiership in 2017, and then the PNG Hunters will get not only the cult following but the national wide recognition they deserve. And leading into a World Cup year, let’s hope that translates into a huge year for the Kumuls as well.