This Sunday sees the culmination of another quality season of rugby league with the 2017 Intrust Super Cup Grand Final at Suncorp Stadium between the PNG Hunters and Sunshine Coast Falcons.
Many who regularly visit The Gurgler website will know that the PNG Hunters are our favourite sporting team in the world, almost to the point where they might start getting sick of us talking about them, but good luck in a week where they have made their first Grand Final in the 4 years since they joined the competition.
We were actually there on that first Sunday at Dolphin Oval back in 2014, and have been hooked ever since. They won that day too, but aside from the power and skill of the men from Papua New Guinea was the infectious excitement generated by all of the extra fans that were there. The Dolphin Oval crowd were so entertained, it was hard to distinguish the home cheers for the noise when the Hunters scored. And it has been a feature of the Hunters ever since.
Can they live with the expectation of their many, many fans in Papua New Guinea, and the slightly obsessive ones here at The Gurgler? That question will answered on Sunday, and after they are put to the ultimate test by the Sunshine Coast Falcons. A side that are in form, score plenty of points, have plenty of Melbourne Storm fringe players, and have a tremendous record against the Hunters.
We’re not so secretly hoping it is a Hunters victory.
WILLIE MINOGA – THE FREIGHT TRAIN
Another thing those who are regulars at The Gurgler website will know is that one of the PNG Hunters is our very favourites. In fact the readers of The Gurgler agreed as he was voted our Person of the Year in 2015.
The name is Willie Minoga, he will line up in the number 15 jersey on the weekend for the Hunters, and whilst we’d prefer him on the field for 80 minutes, you can’t beat that anticipation waiting for him to come onto the field and impact the game.
As you could imagine, anyone with the nickname Freight Train is a seriously powerful unit, and his impact for the Hunters has been outstanding from day one. He has also earned nicknames like Raging Bull and Mack Truck, we prefer freight train as it does the most justice to him.
He has done the job for the Hunters in 2017 like never before, playing initially in the centres for 80 minutes, he has moved between the backline, starting forward pack and bench since those early rounds, but the impact is usually the same. Plenty.
So, we’ll be waiting for that moment when the number 15 for the PNG Hunters joins the battle on Sunday afternoon, and it would be wise to keep an eye out too. You’ll be plenty entertained.
SUNCORP STADIUM ATMOSPHERE SHOULD BE UNBEATABLE
We hope the initial reports of fast ticket sales, and news that Air Niugini were going to subsidise fans are true, and that as many fans from PNG, and PNG Hunter aficionados from all over the state and country will get to the big game on Sunday.
Having been to a number of South East Queensland Hunters away games since 2014 there is a certain extra buzz, extra noise and extra enjoyment the PNG fans bring to every game. Sometimes they even match the numbers of the home side for support, at Redcliffe in their most recent clash this season fans were still lining up around the back of the new grandstand five minutes after kick off waiting to get in.
It wasn’t just fans in PNG merchandise either, the Hunters electric style tempts many in making the effort to catch a game when they are in town. Win or lose they are always entertained.
So I cast my mind back to that first Sunday at Dolphin Oval and remember the noise, and can only imagine that multiplied by five. At minimum. One can only hope that is the case for the 2017 Intrust Super Cup Grand Final this Sunday.
SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS KINGS OF ATTACK
We admit that it has been a little or lot PNG Hunters focused thus far, but our love for the PNG side doesn’t blind us from the fact that the Sunshine Coast Falcons are a very good side, and deserving of their place in the 2017 Intrust Super Cup Grand Final.
The Sunshine Coast Falcons are great to watch on the day, and there have been plenty of those in 2017. They secured the tag of the competition’s best point scorers in the regular season with 647 points coming at an average of 28, and have actually managed to exceed that average during their tremendous finals run to over 30. Their dismantling of Redcliffe Dolphins last weekend was a performance of high quality, and a real danger to the Hunters.
Steering the Falcons around are the halves Scott Drinkwater, who was man of the match in the first week of the finals for the Sunshine Coast, and Ryley Jacks, a Melbourne Storm regular in 2017. Throw in the excellent point scoring machine that is Guy Hamilton, and there is danger everywhere, and they have the outside backs to take the full advantage.
Even their interchange forwards get in on the act, as proven by Jye Ballinger against the Tigers in the second week of the finals, when he scored a hat trick en route to a Man of the Match performance.
The Hunters have proven many times in 2017 that they can defend their line vigorously, prime examples being against the Blackhawks in Townsville where they withstood an incredible 15 minutes of pressure without cracking, and in the semi final against Redcliffe where they kept the second best attacking side tryless. But they are playing the best attacking side this weekend in the 2017 Intrust Super Cup Grand Final, and will they have enough to keep them out.
BIG HUNTERS DEFENCE
One thing that stands out from every PNG Hunters match that we’ve attended is the brute force, the awesome power of the PNG Hunters in defence.
Whilst it won’t be quite the same in the great big surrounds of Suncorp Stadium unlike the suburban grounds where you can hear the oxygen escaping from the tackled player, it should still be a sight to behold in the first five minutes of “softening up”. One match we attended this season at Davies Park was one of the more ferociously defended games we’ve seen, and even got a grunt of approval from supercoach Wayne Bennett,
The Hunters finished the season as one of two team to concede less than 400 points for the season, and though they were 46 points worse than the Dolphins, they were 38 better than the Falcons. And unlike the Dolphins have made the 2017 Intrust Super Cup Grand Final.
So don’t delay getting to your seat or tuning in on Sunday, you may miss some of the season’s biggest hits.
CAN EITHER OF THESE SIDES WIN THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP?
First of all the State Championship is one of the greatest things the NRL has done in the last decade. Instead of the local NSW Cup Grand Final getting the Grand Final day attention, proving once and for all that only Sydney matters, the match between the best of the respective Queensland and NSW Intrust competitions is now a highlight, not just something to endure before the big game.
Secondly, of course they can.
If the Falcons do win the 2017 Intrust Super Cup Grand Final, and with the Storm hot favourites to make the NRL Grand Final, it could be a very good day for the club as the Falcons are one of their feeder clubs in the Intrust Super Cup.
On the flip side, the PNG Hunters will be seen as almost a novelty on Grand Final to those rugby league fans who don’t know the history and background. That’s not a bad thing as an appearance on the NRL’s big day out will give them national, and potentially international exposure like they could never dream of prior to the inception into the Intrust Super Cup in 2014.
For almost 4 years we’ve been talking up the PNG Hunters, and Willie Minoga, and perhaps on that famous Sunday afternoon we’ll be able to say I told you so to the rest of the rugby league world.
Either way, you can’t see either side taking the NRL State Championship lightly, and we suggest it will be another feather for a Queensland based side in 2017, to go with the State of Origin and Residents clash.
Many people have complained about Sunday rugby league, and the lack of it in Brisbane in 2017. Whilst we tend to focus our displeasure of Sunday afternoon rugby league on the fact that it is completely Channel Nein and Sydney focused, we still think that Brisbane fans should get a taste of daylight to go with their rugby league.
So this Sunday is it for all of those Brisbane fans. The only game of rugby league at Suncorp Stadium this year during the day is this Sunday for the 2017 Intrust Super Cup Grand Final.
With the weather looking fine and slightly hot, there’s no excuse not to turn up.
If the above, and all the other content on our website for the last 4 years isn’t enough to get you motivate to be there, or the temptation of day time rugby league in Brisbane between two great sides, then nothing will.