This game will feature only four players you have seen in action in the NRL this year but like that movie you knew nothing about before raving about to anyone who would listen, this could be the game that sticks in the memory long after the Representative Round has been completed.
Looking to build on their shock 24-22 win over Fiji last year, the Kumuls have stuck with a team consisting largely of payers from the PNG Hunters Intrust Super Cup team with just a gentle sprinkling of players currently at NRL clubs.
Nene Macdonald’s form on the wing for the Dragons has been outstanding to start 2017 and he will move in one spot to play in the centres on Saturday with Justin Olam (Storm), Rhyse Martin and Rod Griffin (both Bulldogs) the only other players currently contracted to NRL clubs.
But the Hunters are riding high on the top of the Intrust Super Cup ladder with just two losses through the first nine rounds thanks largely to the creative work of halves Ase and Watson Boas and hooker Wartovo Puara Jnr who all played integral roles in their Pacific Test win 12 months ago.
Cook Islands have drawn on players from the NRL, Holden Cup, Intrust Super Premiership, Intrust Super Cup, Ron Massey Cup, England and France and while the likes of Dylan Napa and Brad Takairangi from their World Cup campaign aren’t available this time there is no shortage of talent.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad showed in his NRL debut for the Warriors last weekend that the raps on the 21-year-old have been well founded while Esan Marsters represented the Junior Kiwis last year and is signed with the Wests Tigers until the end of next season.
As hosts for three matches of this year’s Rugby League World Cup this is a match in which PNG will be looking to put the rest of international rugby league on notice.
Why PNG can win: Although both sides will play with plenty of energy and enthusiasm the Kumuls have the class not only in the halves but out wide to put points on in quick succession. The Boas brothers, Ase and Watson, guided PNG to their upset win over Fiji last year and with the likes of Nene Macdonald, Justin Olam and Adex Wera out wide the try-scoring potency is strong. And keep an eye out for hooker Wartovo Puara Jnr; he was the breakout star of last year’s Pacific Test.
Why Cook Islands can win: The names may not be too familiar but there is an abundance of talent in a Cook Islands team that has been pulled from all corners of the rugby league world. Alex Glenn, Geoff Daniela and Sam Mataora all have extensive NRL experience and there are a group of youngsters led by outstanding talent Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad who promise to carry the Cook Islands forward in the years to come. PNG may not know what to expect which could be the Cook Islands’ greatest weapon.
The history: Played 1; PNG 42 def. Cook Islands 14
While the Kumuls may not have any survivors from the 2009 Pacific Cup meeting between these nations – the only match they have played against each other – Sam Mataora remains for the Cook Islands, although it is unlikely he will line up at halfback as he did eight years ago just two weeks after turning 19. Last year’s Representative Round win over Fiji was PNG’s first official Test win since that victory over the Cook Islands who notched a win over Wales at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
Match officials: Referee: James Childs. Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Nick Beashel. Review Official: Bryan Norrie. Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
NRL.com predicts: Given just how far and wide the Cook Islands team has been assembled the well-honed combinations of the Hunters players in the PNG team shape as a major advantage in such a short preparation. It was a surprise when PNG knocked over World Cup quarter-finalists Fiji last year; this is a match they are expected to win. Kumuls by 14 points.