THE Papua New Guinea Hunters are set for round 23 clash against one of the competition's heavyweights Townsville Blackhawks this afternoon at the t Jack Manski Oval, Townsville.
The round 23 fixture pits the third-placed SP-sponsored Hunters (32 points) against team No.4 (31 pts) in a clash that could decide who finish third on the ladder after the end of the regular season.
The Hunters hold a 3-1 record over the Blackhawks having beaten them twice last year and edging them 11-10 in their round six clash earlier this year.
Their only loss to the Townsville side was a 26-12 capitulation in last year’s major semi-final. The Hunters head into the match without captain Adam Korave, who was ruled out with a knee injury picked up in round 21 against the Ipswich Jets.
The Port Moresby-based side are also without star Wartovo Puara Jr for the second week, with the hooker also recovering from a knee injury.
But Michael Marum’s pack will not lose much with tough as teak back-rower Ishamel Balkawa promoted to the starting side and Warren Glare getting more comfortable in the No.9 jersey.
Utility Edward Goma moves into the 17 while Philemon Kimisive is the 18th man.
Boas brothers Ase and Watson continue their halves combination after the younger Watson returned from injury against the Burleigh Bears last round.
The Hunters are hoping to make it four wins in a row after coming off three back-to-back successes at home.
An away win over a quality side will send a strong message about the Papua New Guineans’ title chances this year.
Marum, who is also the national coach, will get a chance to see the Blackhawks’ two Kumuls Willie Minoga and Rhyse Martin in action as he looks to build a pool of players for the 2017 World Cup.
Martin, who was unavailable for May’s test match against Fiji, and Minoga, who was injured early in that game, would be keen to get the win for their side as well as remind Marum of their ability.
SP Hunters: 1. Bland Abavu, 2. Butler Morrison, 3. Justin Olam, 4. Thompson Teteh, 5. Adex Wera, 6. Ase Boas (C), 7. Watson Boas, 8. Enock Maki, 9. Warren Glare, 10. Esau Siune, 11. Timothy Lomai, 12. Ishmael Balkawa, 13. Brandy Peter; Reserves: 14. Gahuna Silas, 15. Benji Tera, 16. Atte Bina Wabo, 17. Edward Goma, 18. Philemon Kimisive.
Fixtures: Rd 23 – Sat, Aug 13: Devils v Cutters, Jets v Dolphins, Blackhawks v Hunters; Sun, Aug 14: TH Seagulls v Pride, WM Seagulls v Tigers. Bye: Bears, Magpies.
The National/ PNG Hunters