The PNG Hunters have just won their last fixture and confirmed their reputation as formidable newcomers, downing the the South Logan Magpies 44 to 14 in Brisbane.
Their runaway success in the Queensland Rugby League Intrust Cup is dream come true for a country that worships the game.
“It’s our national sport up there, everyone talks rugby league, everyone speaks rugby league,” said team coach Michael Marum.
With a bye next week, they now need the Ipswich Jets and Tweed Head Seagulls to lose their last games.
“I think it was the way we want it to be. We get our two points and go on a bye (next week) and hopefully those teams lose and we get in,” said Hunters captain Israel Eliab after the game.
Either way the team will end the season with the cup’s top try scorer, Gary Lo, coming from their ranks.
Queensland Rugby League said the Hunters have been a huge boon to the competition, boosting game attendances into the thousands instead of the few hundred seen last season.
“It’s the brand of footy they play, it’s care free, it’s the way it should be played, the ball’s throw around, there’s excitement, they can score tries from inside their own ten and from the opposition’s ten,” said QRL competitions manager Jamie O’Connor.
The team suffered setbacks during the season when players, including Eliab, were struck down with malaria, some left over discipline issues and then there was Queensland’s cold weather.
One thing that never wavered was their fan base both at home and in Australia.
“Everyone follows this (in PNG), on Saturdays and Sunday’s they just sit in front of their tellies and watch us, the boys play,” said Eliab.
“We have lots of fans around here (Queensland), at the airport, lots of people asking us, just cheering us.”