Sport: PNG Hunters overhaul squad for 2017

1:16 pm on 20 December 2016

The Papua New Guinea Hunters rugby league coach Michael Marum says the loss of co-captain Noel Zeming will be a blow, but one they can handle.

Marum has been putting an extended squad through their paces over the past two weeks, in preparation for the 2017 season, which will be their fourth in the Queensland Cup.

He has already cut 11 players from the original 52 man squad and has also had to deal with the withdrawal of Zeming.

The PNG Hunters squad will be missing some big names in 2017, including co-captain Noel Zeming (c).

The PNG Hunters squad will be missing some big names in 2017, including co-captain Noel Zeming (c). Photo: PNG Rugby League

"Noel Zeming's been one of our senior players and now he withdrew from the training (squad) because he's got new employment as a teacher," he said.

"So he wants to set out his family first and we understand that so we respect the decision so now we're working on our new centre combinations but we've got a team, we've got some players here that's got the same talent - we've got cover so far in our team."

Fellow PNG Kumuls centre Thompson Teteh announced his departure from the Hunters last month, with the 27 year old signing for the Redcliffe Dolphins, while test winger Justin Olam will link up with the Melbourne Storm in 2017.

Timothy Lomai and Warren Glare are among the other players to be released from the Hunters squad, after their fitness levels were not up to standard, while Stanley Olo and Bradley Yano failed to pass medical tests.

However former captain Israel Eliab is back after a year playing in England.

PNG captain Israel Eliab and coach Michael Marum

Michael Marum (R) will have the services of former captain Israel Eliab (L) again in 2017. Photo: RNZI/Vinnie Wylie

Big-city distractions

Michael Marum said the team will be more cautious when playing in Port Moresby in 2017.

He said lessons have been learnt from last season when the players moved to the PNG capital after two years up north.

"We moved from Kokopo back to the city," he said.

"I think there was a lot of disturbances around the city and...all of the boys they just go out and do stuff on their own.

"In the new season we want to make sure we get off to a good start next year then we will be able to build a spirit inside the players and everyone respects each other and do stuff together."

Penrith train on the new National Football Stadium in Port Moresby

The PNG Hunters are now based at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby. Photo: Facebook/Hon Justin Tkatchenko MP