The Round 3 of the QRL Hostplus Cup match will kick off at 3pm.
Saturday’s fixture will mark just the second time the Hunters have played with a home ground advantage in more than three years.
The pride and passion of Hunters fans in Papua New Guinea is well renowned and the Hunters will be looking to give them something to cheer for in their first home game of 2023.
The players will take plenty of confidence into this weekend’s game following an impressive display against the Souths-Logan Magpies in Round 2. Although the game ended in a 22-22 draw, the Hunters were clearly the better side to make more line breaks, throw more offloads, force more dropouts and score five tries to the Magpies four.
To do this against a Souths-Logan side bristling with NRL experience is a good sign for Stanley Tepend’s Hunters, who are no strangers to coming up against more experienced opponents.
The Hunters ability to defend their errors is fast becoming a theme of their 2023 season, with some impressive goal-line defence so far in Round 1 and 2. For a side that is still developing its combinations in defence, the Hunters are working in unison to fill the spaces around the ruck or slide up and out to contain a shift to the edges.
Against a Tigers side who can move the ball sharply to the edges thanks to a skillful and experienced spine, the Hunters will need to be at their defensive, resilient best if they are to win this one.
There is an added level of intrigue about Saturday’s match with Brisbane Tigers Head Coach, Matt Church returning to the Santos NFS to face his old club for the first time.
He has assembled a quality roster at the Tigers since joining the club and will have his team focused and ready for this contest.
No doubt the Hunters fans will give Church and the Tigers a warm welcome on Saturday afternoon.
The first two rounds, the star of the show has undoubtedly been rookie fullback Morea Morea. He is lighting up the QRL stage in 2023 with one try, two try assists and an average 123 running metres across his first two games, providing the Hunters with silky speed and fancy footwork out the back of shape.
Morea wasn’t the only Hunters lighting up the highlights reel in Round 2 though, as Hunters five-eighth Sakias Komati scored a double to announce himself in the Hostplus Cup competition.
Komati is a triple threat with the ball in hand. He is strong through contact and quick across the ground – as evident in his two try haul last week – but it’s his vision and ball playing that has the Hunters left edge looking so dangerous, two games in.
Komati is bringing backrower Sherwin Tanabi into the game smartly and appeared to strike up a promising partnership with hooker Wesser Tenza around the ruck last week.
As he gains experience and confidence, Komati can become a real feature of the Hunters attack in 2023.
Coach Tepend says the team’s focus remains inward following a promising start to the season.
“For us, we haven’t changed too much this week. It’s only Round 3, early in the season. We’re not focusing too much on our opposition each week, just looking inward and working on ourselves and where we can improve,” said Tepend.
“Although it was disappointing to come away with the draw last week, I think taking three points from our first two away games is positive for us. We’re still a relatively new side – a lot of guys have made the step up from Digicel Cup this season and are learning what it takes to be successful at this level.”
Tepend says the team is satisfied with how they’ve started but there’s still a lot of work to do and areas to improve on.
He said the playing squad and staff are looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd this weekend.
“We’ll be using NFS to our advantage this week, for sure,” he said.
“Playing in front of our family and friends is going to be a special feeling. For the players, it’s what they’ve been working towards coming through the Digicel Cup. They’ve always wanted to be a Hunter at NFS and they get their chance on Saturday. The boys are excited.”