With three weeks until the 2019 NRL season starts, many of us are filled with hope that our team will do really well. Maybe they’ll even challenge for the premiership.
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After hearing quite a few tales of how underwhelming some of the NRL finals games were last weekend around various water coolers, it would be remiss as a Queensland Cup correspondent not to let fans know about the best game of rugby league this weekend.
It may not feature Johnathan Thurston, Paul Gallen, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck or anyone with the surname Morris. The game of the weekend may well feature names like Carlin Anderson, Matt Parcell, Israel Eliab and of course Willie Minoga.
There will be a Barba, but it will be Ipswich speedster Marmin, not Sharks livewire Ben.
If you don’t know the names above from a great season of Queensland Cup, after Sunday’s game you may well know them, and be on board before some of them take the NRL by storm.
The game in question is the knockout final between the Papua New Guinea Hunters and the Ipswich Jets, who are vying to take to Suncorp Stadium on Sunday September 27 and play the waiting minor premiers Townsville Blackhawks.
Both teams have strong claims and plenty to offer for the discerning fan, at the neutral venue of BMD Kougari Oval at Wynnum.
While the Hunters finished second in 2015 regular competition the game won’t be held in Papua New Guinea due to the $205,000 cost to get staff and equipment to PNG to make the coverage up to Channel Nine’s standard.
A shame Fox Sports couldn’t get in on the action and present the game to a national audience, who have a free Sunday to fill. But that’s forward thinking, which rugby league administration doesn’t do well.
So it is to Brisbane we go and the clash on the capital’s bayside will feature the competition’s, if not rugby league’s, most unpredictable and attacking football sides.
If the last game at North Ipswich Reserve is anything to go by, no one will be disappointed. There were offloads aplenty, length-of-the-field tries, and a kick return from a kick off, reminiscent of the good old days of a kicking duel.
I guess you had to be there – I was – but thankfully the TV cameras will capture this clash. For Queenslanders.
On the actual football side, Ipswich are the form side coming into the game, having seen off last year’s grand finalists Easts Tigers and Northern Pride in their finals run. Their two wins on paper look very strong, with 44-18 and 54-26 victories over Easts and the Pride respectively, but hidden behind the score lines and spectacular tries was the fact that both of their opponents were right in the game during the second half, and with a little more luck, refereeing decisions, and key injuries it could have been much tighter.
Not that Ipswich didn’t deserve to win, just a late surge of tries gave a little polish to the scoreboard.
To say Ipswich are the form side leading into the game is a little unfair to the Hunters, who before last weekend’s loss to Townsville had been unbeaten since Round 6, in April. But this is finals football, and the Hunters were outplayed by the more experienced side in Townsville last Saturday night. Whether it was the occasion, or the opening that saw the Hunters have one play in the first seven minutes or so, it wasn’t their day – passes didn’t stick and they were unable to break the Blackhawks. Hopefully for Hunters fans and casual rugby league enthusiasts, it will be back to regular-season form this Sunday.
One big question that was answered in Ipswich’s two finals clashes is how do the Jets fare against unpredictable, unconventional sides. Two wins from two to the Hunters make an argument that the Jets’ devil-may-care attack is blunted against a similar side. The same could be said of the Hunters, who will probably enjoy the little extra room they will get this Sunday against Ipswich after being smothered last weekend.
Either way it will be entertaining, there’ll be as much side-to-side movement as tennis match, short kick offs, unbelievable offloads and plenty of tough stuff up the middle too.
For a neutral venue, Wynnum will provide a great atmosphere, so anyone within a lazy Sunday afternoon drive will be well-rewarded. Or catch the game in Queensland on Channel Nine and the usual feeder stations from 3pm.
Those out of the state should befriend someone in Queensland or catch up on Foxtel later in the week with a replay.
Papua New Guinea 40-28 Ipswich
Ipswich 14-32 Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea $2.20, Ipswich $1.67
Line Papua New Guinea +2.5
2015 overall record
Papua New Guinea: Played 23, won 18, drew 2, lost 3, for and against +231
Ipswich: Played 23, won 16, lost 7, for and against +198
Papua New Guinea Hunters
1. Stargroth Amean 2. Oti Bland Tony 3. Noel Zeming 4. Edward Goma 5. Adex Wera 6. Israel Eliab (c) 7. Ase Boas 8. Henry Noki 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Esau Siune 11. Nickson Borana 12. Kato Ottio 13. Timothy Lomai 14. Warren Glare 15. Atte Bina 16. Willie Minoga 17. Thompson Teteh 18. David Lapua 19. Roger Laka
Coach: Michael Marum
1. Carlin Anderson 2. Marmin Barba 3. Liam Capewell 4. Nemani Valekapa 5. Richard Pandia 6. Josh Cleeland 7. Dane Phillips 8. Josh Seage 9. Matt Parcell 10. Rod Griffin 11. Sam Martin 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Keiron Lander (c) 14. Landon Hayes 15. Kurtis Lingwoodock 16. Billy McConnachie 22. Fakahoko Teutau
Coach: Ben Walker and Shane Walker