Years of talking up the PNG Hunters and Willie Minoga were rewarded this afternoon at Suncorp Stadium as the PNG Hunters win the Grand Final courtesy of a very late Willie Minoga try.
As such we’d love to say we told you so. And we will.
For we did predict success at the start of the year with our PNG Hunter season preview claiming that 2017 was surely the year for success, and that a big part of that was the return of fan favourite and 2015 Gurgler Person of the Year Willie Minoga.
But it was a rugby league day to savour at Suncorp Stadium, with the Hunters waiting until late to seal the deal, and whilst we could have done without the heartburn and tension, it made the late Willie Minoga try the little bit more satisfying.
So here’s our points of interest from the PNG Hunters big win in the Intrust Super Cup Grand Final.
Some of them even played out as per our 5 Things to look out for preview. What a day.
Greatest Rugby League Day Out Ever
A moment of self indulgence to start with, but watching the PNG Hunters seal the title in such dramatic style courtesy of our favourite rugby league player was a combination to create pure rugby league bliss.
We were at the first ever Hunters game at Redcliffe in 2014, and have been a Hunters groupie ever since. Whilst they didn’t win every time they always entertained with their incredible approach and enthusiasm for the game.
We have maintained since their inception that they only needed to get to a grand final to become one of the big stories of rugby league. And we said so in an article for the Fox Sports Media Academy a few months back too. And then if they got to the NRL state championship fans would go berserk, and new friends converted to the passion of PNG rugby league.
It is all now before them as they have their big day on NRL Grand Final day, and with the face of Willie Minoga covering sports websites around Australia. Just the way we like it.
Whether they win or not this weekend doesn’t matter, I can just thank the players, and all of the passionate support to have made it the greatest rugby league day out ever.
What Minor Premiers Curse
The PNG Hunters win was just the second success for the team finishing the regular season in first since 2007. Heading into the game, the telling statistic was against them, with many great sides before them failing to turn the 20 odd round domination into Grand Final success, or in some cases Grand Final appearances.
Stats are made to be broken, just like the Hunter’s record of no finals wins before this season.
A nervous start for Hunters and fans
The Hunters looked nervous at the start of the game, and as such were punished early by two quick Sunshine Coast tries.
The first involved some beautiful play by the Falcon’s Jahrome Hughes and Matthew Soper-Lawler and the second was a reasonably soft effort from the Hunters as Joe Stimson extended the lead to 10-0.
With the early drop ball and Falcons looking dangerous with every touch and eating up the metres in the middle of the field, it looked like a bleak day out for the hunters and their fans.
PNG got into the game eventually, but couldn’t make some excellent chances count with critical errors in great attacking positions. It made for a tense day. But it did get better.
Knock Ons a Plenty
Not sure if we can remember a game with so many knock ons. It must have the lowest overall completion rate of any rugby league game this season.
It was frustrating for both sets of fans, as the Hunters seemed to continually drop the ball in very promising attacking positions, and the Falcons kept turning over the ball just as they were looking to shut the Hunters out of the game.
At first it looked like early nerves but the knock ons kept on coming. It got to the stage where fingers were crossed for every hit up late in the game as the Hunters were looking for that winning try.
It detracted a little from the game, but certainly not the ending and result.
The crowd atmosphere was sensational
Sunday’s crowd of just over 11,000 was sizeable for an Intrust Super Cup, probably a modern (post Broncos entry) day record. What couldn’t be debatable was it was the best atmosphere of any final than ever before.
The crowd was awash with the Red, Yellow and Black of the Hunters/PNG colours, along with plenty of SP merch as well, it was a sight to behold in amongst the main stand and also looking across from it whilst holding onto the giant PNG flag at the Milton Road end.
Regular chanting and cheering got the crowd noise as close to English football as rugby league gets, and what will never be forgotten was the noise when Willie Minoga scored that historic final try of the match.
We’d love to see a game in Port Moresby one day to get a real taste of the atmosphere that we loved so much in Brisbane on Sunday. Maybe one day.
Ase Boas wins everything…almost.
It has been a big year for the Hunters five eighth and captain. He has won the Intrust Super Cup Player of the Year and People’s Choice award for 2017, he was captain of the side that were minor premiers and now premiership winners. He nabbed the Duncan Hall medal for best on ground on Grand Final day to top off a 2017 season that is hard to beat. But strangely he did not five eighth of the season.
He thoroughly deserves all the accolades as he has been outstanding all season, not only for his attacking prowess, but his underrated goal kicking, which had proved the difference in both of the Hunters finals wins.
One wonders if some NRL clubs might come knocking based on his stellar season. Especially if he can do it one more time next weekend.
Michael Marum too should come in for plenty of accolades. He has managed to turn the raw passion and Super skills and power of the PNG side into a more modern day competitive team, and now a premiership winning team. He hasn’t won Coach of the year twice for no reason.
Now to do it for the State Championship and for the Kumuls in the World Cup.
Willie Minoga emotional after match sealing try
The big interchange forward did a sensational job to score the last minute winner, through heavy traffic he got to the ball first and his joy was matched by the smiles and cheers around the 11,000 strong pro Hunters crowd.
A touching moment then unfolded as the big man was shown to have a tear in his eye as the Hunter gathered for the next kick off. Who could argue, he may have just scored the try that secured the biggest day of rugby league for the league loving nation.
In a day and age where players are securing seven figures salaries and arguing for more, what a wonderful display of love for the game than Willie Minoga after his match winning try.
There’s nothing wrong with getting a bit emotional after such a big moment. It’s not as if Willie Minoga isn’t one of the toughest players on a rugby league field, you could find two examples during Sunday’s Intrust Super Cup Grand Final where a scuffle broke out, and then broke up as Willie Minoga’s presence in the eye of the storm parted the players like biblical Red Sea. No one gets and deserves more respect than Willie Minoga.
How good is Sunday afternoon rugby league at Suncorp Stadium?
The Intrust Super Cup Grand Final was actually the first game of rugby league at the venue for the 2017 season. Thanks to Channel Nein and the NRL’s insistence on keeping them happy, the Broncos didn’t get a single daytime match this season.
More than a few remarked how good it was to see at a game at the great venue during the day. But don’t hold your breath on the NRL giving fans what they want. They are too far down the pecking order.
Can the Hunters win the State Championship?
Of course they can.
If we’re honest, the Hunters dropped enough ball for 3 or 4 games, so they will surely improve on that and be even more dangerous on NRL Grand Final day next Sunday.
One thing for sure is the exposure they get will convert many more followers, and so it should. No doubt people will be hooked as we have been since their inception.
What about a Kumuls World Cup tilt?
The a Hunters success can only be a good thing heading into the World Cup.
With the majority of the squad likely to come from the Hunters and Michael Marum in charge they will continuity and combinations like very few other sides.
Throw in a little more quality like David Mead (who will do well to beat Stargroth Amean to the number 1), James Segeyaro, Alex Johnston, and other high quality state based players like Tommy Butterfield, Rod Griffin, Rhyse Martin and Luke Page and you have a dangerous squad for the big teams to take on.
Throw in the fact they play three games in PNG and you have a real dark horse for a surprise. The big three that ends up playing the Kumuls will want to be on their game.