Last week’s 24-20 loss to the Redcliffe Dolphins took some of the wind out of the Hunters sails but coach Michael Marum is adamant his third-placed side is on track for a finals berth given they have four of their last six matches at home.
He said the task remained the same for Sunday’s Round 20 fixture and he welcomed their return to the National Football Stadium as they face the Tigers, one of only two Intrust Super Cup sides to have recorded rare wins over the Hunters in PNG.
“The Tigers are one of the few sides that have beaten us at home in our first year so while we’re confident and happy to back at home we’re not taking them lightly at all,” Marum said.
The Tigers are the last Q-Cup side to beat the Hunters in PNG. They beat Marum’s men 22-16 at Kalabond, Kokopo, in Round 17, in 2014.
“They’ve got some great players like Tommy Butterfield, who’s back in good form for them and they’ve got a couple of Melbourne Storm guys there too so they’ll be really tough.”
The Tigers are coming off a 20-10 loss to the Souths Logan Magpies and are in fifth spot on 24 points four clear of defending champions the Ipswich Jets whom the Hunters play next.
Marum said a final decision would be made on halfback Watson Boas, who is battling a right knee injury. He said Boas was “50-50” to be declared fit by Saturday’s captain’s run.
Regular hooker Wartovo Puara Junior would have no problems slotting into first receiver with utility Gahuna Silas expected to cover the halves and dummy half off the bench.
Marum said several of his first choice players were still recovering from injury but the team had to keep the momentum going until everyone was back on deck.
“Watson isn’t 100 per cent but he’ll be given till after the captain’s run if; Philemon Kimisive just returned to full training this week while Noel Zeming is still about three weeks away from coming back; Henry Noki’s got another week out and Stargroth (Amean) is sorting his out some personal issues but is training.
“From here, it’s all finals football. That’s how we’re approaching every game. Every match is a must-win for us.”
SP Hunters: 1 Bland Abavu, 2 Butler Morris, 3 Justin Olam, 4 Thompson Teteh, 5 Adex Wera, 6 Ase Boas, 7 Wartovo Puara Jr, 8 Enoch Maki, 9 Warren Glare, 10 Esau Siune, 11 Edward Goma, 12 Adam Korave (C), 13 Timothy Lomai; Reserves: 14 Gahuna Silas, 15 Ishmael Balkawa, 16 Benjamin Hetra, 17 Brandy Peter, 18 Atte Bina Wabo, 19 William Aquila, 20 Philemon Kimisive (three to be omitted).