MARK Tony, Roderick Tai, Wesser Tenza and Kingstimer Paraia have been named to make their Hostplus Cup debuts in the SP Hunters’ season-opener away at Mackay Cutters on Saturday (4.30pm kick-off).
Reigning Digicel Cup premiership-winning Lae Tigers playmaker Tony will partner youngster Judah Rimbu in the halves while Roderick Tai will combine with Gilmo Paul in the centre.
Mendi Muruks rake and skipper Tenza will start at dummy-half with goal-kicking talent Paraia expected to come off the bench in a one-two punch by coach Matthew Church.
Both sides have played 11 matches between them with the South Pacific Brewery-sponsored Hunters recording six wins, three loses and two draws.
The Hunters lost 30-40 in their last meeting despite leading 26-14 at halftime.
Meanwhile, Hunters co-captain Ila Alu underwent surgery last Monday on his fractured collar bone sustained during first trial match against Central Queensland Capras on March 5.
Church told The National on Saturday before his men’s second trial against West Brisbane Panthers, that the former Rabaul Guria would miss the early rounds of the season.
“Ila had surgery last Monday following the game against the Capras,” he said.
“The surgery went well and he has a follow-up with the surgeon in two weeks.
“We won’t know for sure until then, but at this stage he will miss the early rounds.”
Church said it was a blow to the side, but he was hopeful that Alu would recover quickly.
He said premiership-winning Lae Tigers playmaker Jamie Mavoko was still nursing an injury which had kept him out of the side for the two trials.
“Jamie had tests on his hamstring and still has some imbalance in his strength,” Church said.
“We are unwilling to play him until he is 100 per cent.”
Church said the Panthers trial, which his men won 18-14, was used to improve on their mistakes from the Capras loss.
“We wanted to iron out a few things from the Capras game around ball control and not conceding many penalties,” he said.
Hunters: Terry Wapi, Brandon Nima, Gilmo Paul, Roderick Tai, Solo Wane, Judah Rimbu, Mark Tony, Casey Dickson, Wesser Tenza, Sylvester Namo, Benji Kot, Keven Appo (captain), Dilbert Isaac; Interchange – Kingstimer Paraia, Samuel Yegip, Junior Rop, Jordan Pat.
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