Sport: PNG Hunters to make home debut this weekend
PNG Hunters rugby league team prepare for their first home game after beating the Redcliffe Dolphins in their Queensland Cup debut.
After marking their Queensland Cup debut in winning fashion last week, the Papua New Guinea Hunters play their first ever home match in Kokopo tomorrow.
A sell-out crowd is expected for the visit of defending premiers the Mackay Cutters.
The Hunters CEO Brad Tassell spoke with Vinnie Wylie about the club's historic first week and keeping the home fans happy.
BRAD TASSELL: It was interesting before the game because there was a lot of calm about the boys and the dressing room was pretty quiet and reserved. To me that's always a pretty good sign the players have got their minds switched on the job so I knew they were in for a good display.
VINNIE WYLIE: And of course it continues, now it's milestones every week. This is the first home game up in Kokopo - that's going to be special to play in front of the home fans.
BT: Absolutely, we're expecting a capacity crowd on Saturday and hopefully a capacity crowd for the next three home games. It's good for the boys to get back in front of their home fans and have that enormous support, although it was pretty much like a home game against Redcliffe on Sunday. There were close to 6,000 people in the crowd and I reckon about five and half thousand of them were Papua New Guineans or people cheering for Papua New Guinea. We're going to get great support away from home as well but obviously our own support and having teams come up here is going to be good for us.
VW: Is that local communities of PNG supporters as well and the neutrals or have you had some fans that have wanted to or have travelled over for games?
BT: There's a lot of fans wanting to travel over for games. It's difficult because it's Kokopo - you have to get a connecting flight - and there's not a lot of flights that do go on a daily or a weekly basis so it will be difficult for a lot of fans to get to the game but I do know that most of the flights in country from around the islands [and] around the mainland are pretty much booked solid for this weekend's match.
VW: Indeed how do you service that rabid fan base, especially with the large population in Moresby, knowing that all your games are up in Kokopo there and how much they want to see the team play?
BT: Oh yeah it's difficult. We've got seven million people in this nation and we can't look after everyone obviously. We play out of a venue that holds about 7,500 at the moment so that's why the government is investing pretty heavily in infrastructure down in Port Moresby in time for the Pacific Games. We will have probably two stadiums that can house between 15 and 25,000 people in a year and half time. That will be good for the organisation to get back to Port Moresby and be based here because it's a lot easier access for people around the country as well.
VW: And in terms of on the field, Mackay are defending premiers so it's another step up in quality.
BT: They'll be tough this weekend, they'll come out firing because you know they were embarrassed last weekend I think against East in the Grand Final replay 40-12 so anyone who thinks that because they got beat last week pretty easily that we're going to have an easy game this weekend should really be slapping themselves around the head because I know for sure Mackay will come out all guns blazing. They are the defending premiers, they've got a lot of pride at stake and it'll be a tough game for us. We play them and we also play Central Queensland Capras, who everyone is mooting as a possible finalist and then we've got the Northern Pride, who are defending minor premiers, the week after so it's a very tough run for us the next three home games.
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