The Intrust Super Cup finale is finally here, and this Sunday’s showpiece sees the minor premiers PNG Hunters take on the Sunshine Coast Falcons at Suncorp Stadium.
For the Hunters it’s their first grand final since their inception into the Intrust Super Cup competition in 2014, and after securing their first ever finals win in Port Moresby against Redcliffe two weeks ago they will be full of confidence of doubling down on that.
They will have support like few other rugby league sides on earth heading into a grand final. With a nation of well over seven million, full of rugby league fans, few clubs – including NRL teams – could boast such support. Travel costs to Brisbane for the final might be prohibitive, but one can only imagine the jubilation in Papua New Guinea if they are able to salute. Then there’s the State Championship Final where the nation will see what anyone who has been lucky to follow the Hunters for four seasons has experienced.
Sunshine Coast are no pushovers though, in fact with their great record on the Sunshine Coast against the Hunters (three wins on the Sunshine Coast in three seasons), they have every right to be full of confidence too. The Falcons even had the audacity to knock out the Hunters from last year’s finals race in Port Moresby.
The have loads of talent and their feeder arrangement with the Melbourne Storm has done the job nicely for them this season. The Sunshine Coast had previously won a grand final, but that was a while ago, when they had players from the Manly Sea Eagles system in the side.
The record against the Hunters, their Melbourne connection, and finals momentum has the Falcons installed as early favourites for the Intrust Super Cup.
Will the Hunters deliver on the expectations of millions, or can the Falcons continue the dreadful run for minor premiers in the Intrust Super Cup Grand Final? Only one minor premier has gone on to win the title since 2007.
There’s arguably more buzz about this grand final than any other before it, and it should be a tremendous game of rugby league. Enjoy a rare Sunday afternoon of rugby league in Brisbane.
LAST TIME OUT
Both of these side’s last hit out was against the Redcliffe Dolphins, and whilst both games ended in a loss for Redcliffe, the method couldn’t have been different.
Where the Sunshine Coast destroyed the Redcliffe Dolphins 40-14 last weekend at Dolphin Oval, the PNG Hunters were locked in an almighty arm wrestle with the Dolphins two weeks ago in Port Moresby, which saw them resist attack after attack and score the only try of the game – in the second half – to win 6-4.
Sunday will be four straight finals matches for the Falcons, and just the second for the Hunters, with a two-week rest before both games. Will it be form v freshness in the big game?
Sunshine Coast Falcons Attack v PNG Hunters Defence
A key moment of the PNG Hunters season was in the Round 23 clash against the Blackhawks in Townsville in August. The home side had all the ball and relentlessly peppered the Hunters’ line, in wave after attacking wave for 15 minutes like I’ve never seen before, and somehow the Hunters resisted. In typical modern rugby league style they went down the other end not long after and put the points on the board that got them over the line, but their defence showed the Hunters’ dedication required to win finals matches, and hopefully a grand final.
A similar scene was repeated in the first half of the Hunters’ first finals match against Redcliffe in Port Moresby two weeks ago, where the Dolphins pressured for a major part of the first half. They eventually kept the Dolphins tryless, winning 6-4.
They will need all that willingness to hold their line against the competition’s best attacking side in the Sunshine Coast Falcons. Their average of 28 points a game in the regular season has been matched in their three finals games thus far, with scores of 26, 26, and 40 taking the finals average over 30 points.
The Falcons have loads of attacking weapons: Guy Hamilton, Scott Drinkwater and Ryley Jacks, but one of the Hunters’ biggest headaches could come from a player that was in their ranks up until this season in ISC Centre of the Year Justin Olam.
PNG Hunters aren’t the best side to come back from a decent deficit, so if the Falcons can scoot ahead by 12 points early it may be just enough to hold on.
EXPERT PREDICTIONS AND COMMENTS ON THE INTRUST SUPER CUP GRAND FINAL
BRENDAN O’FARRELL – CEO of Intrust Super
Well minor premiers PNG deserve to be part of another Intrust Super Cup GF. A week off should keep them fresh and ready to do battle with a strongly-performing Sunshine Coast Falcons. With strong winning momentum heading into the familiar Suncorp Stadium, I think the Falcons may take the silverware home. In any event it will be two outstanding teams battling it out to play off for the opportunity to take out the Intrust Super Championship in Sydney on the first Sunday on October.
Best of luck to both teams and thanks to providing weekend after weekend full of excitement.
SHANNON MEYER – Nothing But League Contributor
Once again it comes down to head v heart.
The head looks at the Falcons’ form heading into the big game and the dismantling of Redcliffe at Dolphin Oval last weekend. Plus the outstanding form against the Hunters over the last three years which saw the Falcons defeat the Hunters on their last three trips to the coast. There’s also the Melbourne Storm quality in the Falcons lineup compared to the Hunters.
All that points to a Falcons win for the 2017 Intrust Super Cup title, but not by many.
Although, having got all of the finals matches predictions wrong except one at this stage, that could be good news for Hunters fans, of which there will be plenty of Suncorp Stadium this Sunday.
Sunshine Coast 38 PNG Hunters 14
Channel Nine + Regional Affiliates from 3pm.
1. Stargroth Amean 2. Wawa Paul 3. Bland Abavu 4. Adex Wera 5. Butler Morris 6. Ase Boas (c) 7. Watson Boas 8. Wellington Albert 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Stanton Albert 11. David Loko 12. Nixon Putt 13. Moses Meninga 14. Rahdly Brawa 15. Willie Minoga 16. Enock Maki 17. Brandy Peter 18. Esau Siune
Coach: Michael Marum
Sunshine Coast Falcons
1. Guy Hamilton 2. Matthew Soper-Lawler 3. Justin Olam 4. Christopher Lewis 5. Jeremy Hawkins 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Ryley Jacks 18. Tui Kamikamica 9. Brandon Smith 10. Lachlan Timm 11. Dane Hogan (c) 12. Joe Stimson 13. Harrison Muller 14. Alex Bishop 15. Jye Ballinger 16. Jon Grieve 17. Louis Geraghty 19. Martin Cordwell 20. Liam McDonald
Coach: Craig Ingebrigtsen