What is happening to the PNG Hunters?
During the week it was announced that PNG Hunters fan favourite Willie Minoga was heading to Barrow Raiders in the Rugby League Championships.
Minoga, known as the Mack Truck or Freight Train will join fellow Hunter players Wartovo Puara and Stargroth Amean at the Raiders in 2019.
What is interesting about Amean’s move to England was the fact that the talented fullback had left the Intrust Super Club mid-season to concentrate on his studies.
Barrow are not the only club to pick up talent from Papua New Guinea. The news that both Boas brothers will join the Featherstone Rovers next season. It’s hard to believe Ase Boas hasn’t been picked up by any club in the National Rugby League or second-tier competition given his form in the Hunters premiership winning season.
Staying within the Intrust Super Cup and hopping to Queensland based clubs are Edene Gebbie, Rahdly Brawa and Nixon Putt. The loss of Putt in particular is a big blow as he was arguably their best player in 2018.
Despite twelve months earlier breaking through for their maiden Intrust Super Premiership title and successful quarter-final berth for the national side at the World Cup, the lack of opportunity has seen a widespread exodus from PNG Hunters players. There is no pathway into the National Rugby League.
One of the good things to come out of the exodus is the opportunity to promote local PNG talent into the Intrust Super Cup side. This week the Hunters named a sixty man squad, with five players coming from the Lae Snax Tigers side and a further four from the Port Morseby Vipers.
It would feel that the club is back at square one in 2014 where the next unknown players becomes a household name.
However, it could be a negative as aspiring PNG Hunters players may give up on playing rugby league because there is no clear path to the National Rugby League. Why very few of the sixteen clubs want to take on PNG talent is beyond me.
Is there anyone to blame? Probably not.
PNG Hunters and national coach Michael Marum remains a polarising figure and shoulders the blame for most of problems. Overall he has done a brilliant job in raising the profile of rugby league in Papua New Guinea and bringing success to both the Intrust Super Cup side and national side.
The great unknown is whether Marum will be able to continue as coach of the Hunters if they struggle in 2019.