PNG using QCup final as NRL springboard

Hunters coach Michael Marum believes Papua New Guinea is on track to field a team in the NRL, viewing his side’s Queensland Cup grand final berth as another step in the journey.

A crowd of more than 10,000, mostly Hunters’ fans, is expected on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium where the minor premiers meet Sunshine Coast.

Marum said the rugby league-mad country had the talent, development opportunities, fans and facilities to support a NRL club.

“This is a good pathway for that; we’ve got the facilities now, but we have to be consistent with our performances in this competition and in the next few years we can get a team in the NRL,” he said.

His confidence comes after last week’s endorsement from departing Canterbury captain James Graham, who said PNG deserved serious consideration as a destination for NRL expansion.

Winning Sunday’s decider – the Hunters’ first-grand final appearance since the club’s 2014 inception – will only help their cause.

Marum said the team had already made an impact in a country where rugby league was the national sport.

“A win on Sunday would unite the country … I think even making the grand final has united the country,” he said.

“If these guys go to the shop, they get mobbed by kids and everyone knows them by name and where they’ve come from.”

A win would be the club’s first finals victory in Australia, after qualifying for the decider with a 6-4 defeat of Redcliffe two weeks ago in Port Moresby.

Captain, five-eighth and Queensland Cup player of the year Ase Boas is aware of the chance that awaits his side.

“I think at 3 o’clock at kickoff, the whole of PNG will be at a standstill; everyone will be in front of a TV,” he said.

“It would mean a lot to me, as captain, to win a grand final.”

The Falcons will enter in good form, beating Redcliffe 40-14 last weekend to reach the season finale.

“We’re in a really good position at the moment, physically and mentally,” coach Craig Ingebrigtsen said.

“We were really good on the weekend and, if we stick to that footy, we’re going to be close to being on the mark.”

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