Sport: Three more PNG Hunters players NRL bound
Three Papua New Guinea players have signed contracts with NRL rugby league clubs in Australia.
Three more Papua New Guinea Hunters players have been snapped up by National Rugby League clubs in Australia.
Wartovo Puara and Thompson Teteh will join premiers South Sydney in January on a six-week trial while Stanton Albert has signed with the Penrith Panthers on a two-year deal for two years.
Club CEO Brad Tassell told Vinnie Wylie the signings are a vindication of the Hunters programme and shows there is a real pathway for players to take the next step.
BRAD TASSELL: We've done a lot of work this year in forging some strong relationships with NRL coaches and clubs and a lot of work has gone on in the background over the last probably 12 months and it got to the stage over the last few weeks where the clubs are very keen on our players and negotiations took place and resulted in the three of the players leaving PNG and leaving the Hunters to take up those opportunities.
VINNIE WYLIE: Is that part of the reality of the PNG Hunters in that they're performing as a professional outfit in the Intrust Super Cup in Queensland but part of it I guess is getting those players to take the next step in their careers and move on?
BT: The program itself is as close to an NRL program as you can get outside of the NRL. When we sit down with most NRL coaches and clubs and we outline what we do: our program from day to day, seven days a week, and the training that we do and that we're full-time professionals, I think they're shocked at first and then they're very impressed as well. They realise our players are NRL-ready basically and it's what we do in camp. We teach them what they need to say, how they need to think, their attitude [and] what they need to do on a day-to-day basis that gets them prepared and ready. I would expect that we'll start to see more players progress on a steady pathway over the next couple of years.
VW: What chance do you give Wartovo Puara and Thompson Teteh because at this point it's just a six-week trial from their point of view whereas Stanton Albert has signed a two year deal. I guess it's in their court to impress?
BT: They specifically requested those two players and it's because South Sydney have got a couple of holes to fill. They lost Korisau to Penrith which is their back-up rake. When they sat down they saw vision of Wartovo in action with our strength and conditioning coach, [who] went through with them and had a look at him in action, and they were pretty gobsmacked. The comment from one of them was that, "geez, he's better than the kid that we've lost", so if Wartovo performs in training and in the trial match to how we expect that he will, I can't see any reason why he won't be contracted there for the year and won't come back to us. Obviously they also a centre for nine months suspension as well so they've got a hole there in that centre position and Thompson Teteh's ready-made for that: he's big, strong, fast, great defence, good footwork [and] very athletic. I'd be pretty confident in saying that we don't want to see either of those two players back in Hunters colours next year.
VW: And from Stanton Albert's point of view, to be able to link up with his brother at the club - Wellington [Albert] of course at the start of the year joining with Mark Mexico at NRL sides which was I guess the start of this, I guess what you are hoping is a production line of players coming into the top level in Australia.
BT: Stanton - he could be anything that kid. He's 20 next year, will play in the [NRL] Under 20s and we expect he will probably be very difficult to handle in that competition. We take a lot of things into
consideration when we talk about our players. [For] a lot of them it's their first time out of the country and it's a very strong family environment in Papua New Guinea as well, and support network, so we need to be sure that the players are going to an environment where they get a similar sort of support. I think the deciding factor for Stanton was his brother down at Penrith. There was about four clubs that were chasing him. Penrith was very very keen to get him and came in with a significant offer over the two years, which obviously was of benefit to us having his older brother down there, and we expect he's going to flourish in the NRL programme.
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