The Papua New Guinea Hunters are back on home turf for tomorrow's crucial Queensland Cup rugby league clash against the Easts Tigers in Port Moresby.
The Hunters were beaten 24-20 by the Redcliffe Dolphins last weekend, their fifth defeat in their past six away games.
The Tigers are also coming off a loss away to Souths Logan Magpies but will overtake PNG in the competitions standings if they can become the first team to beat the Hunters at home this season.
Last year's minor premiers, the Townsville Blackhawks, have also been struggling of late, losing four of their last five games.
Coach Kristian Woolf said there was no doubt the competition is much stronger this year.
"Obviously the Hunters lost a few players to NRL clubs and other clubs last year and that's probably brought them back to the pack just a little bit and we've had our own difficulties with getting personnel on the field and injuries and having a different team every week, so that's probably brought us back to the field just a little bit as well," he said.
"On top of that I think teams like Burleigh and Redcliffe and Easts...have really strengthened themselves and recruited really well for this year. It's a much more even comp across the board, it's a much tougher comp at the top I think and that's certainly showing in the results and showing in the ladder at the moment."
The Blackhawks host the Central Queensland Capras in Mount Isa this afternoon.
There's six more rounds before the playoffs.