Decorated hooker, Wartovo Puara Jr took out three major awards at the Hunters’ presentation night for his performances as the Hunters completed their seven-month stay on the Gold Coast before returning home for their off-season.
Puara, who this year became the Hunters’ most capped player, received awards for the Chairman’s Player of the Year, Best Forward and Players’ Player for his work across the Hunters’ 17 matches of this season.
The Hunters fielded 12 debutants this year including Benji Kot (Rookie of the Year) and Sylvester Namo (Coach’s Award) who were among the award recipients.
Solomon Kuliniasi is one of the most treasured members of the Hunters’ support staff and he was delighted to receive the Clubman of the Year award for his tireless work with the team since their inaugural season.
But the most emotional moment of the night came when Jokadi Bire was named Best Back for his storming performances at centre. Bire has announced that his career is over after the devastation of a serious heart issue that almost claimed his life three days after he starred against minor premiers Norths.
Bire bravely announced two weeks ago that doctors had advised him that he could not play again after recovering from emergency heart surgery, which has given him the expectation of a long life.
The Best Back award will remain a wonderful recognition of the potential that Bire showed throughout 2021, as he made a sudden impact in his first Intrust Super Cup.
“It’s been a season of sacrifice for this Hunters squad being away from home due to COVID-19 restrictions but we had some outstanding moments on the field that we recognised with these awards,” Hunters CEO, Scott Barker said.
“Wartovo was a very deserving winner of the major awards for another high-quality season of football. He set a strong example to the younger players who learned so much this year, placing the Hunters in a promising position for the 2022 season,” he said
Barker added that Bire’s award was well deserved and a great sign of the bond that the team created during seven months away from home.
“The benefits of this season will be realised in the years ahead and the likes of Benji Kot and Sylvester Namo and our other 2021 debutants have promising futures with the team.”
The 2021 SP PNG Hunters awardees are:
Wartovo Puara Chairman’s Award for Player of the Year
Wartovo Puara Players’ Player of the Year
Wartovo Puara Best Forward
Jokadi Bire Best Back
Benji Kot Rookie of the Year
Sylvester Namo Coaches’ Award
Solomon Kuliniasi Clubman of the Year