More than 4,000 people are expected for their first Cup game, as Cairns’ Papua New Guinean fraternity embraces the new team.
“The PNG community totals about 8,000 in Cairns and probably half of those will come,” PNG Wantoks Association member Paul Garong said.
“Most of us are NRL followers and I’ll be making sure they come.”
The Hunters are not only in the competition to make up the numbers, though.
In fact, Pride back-rower Blake Leary is a little anxious after seeing footage of their training session on the news.
“I’ll be wearing a cup, shoulder pads and thigh guard, whatever I can get my hands on. They’re big strong guys,” the 23-year-old said.
“They’ll be pumped up and we know they play with so much emotion; some of them were almost tearing up when we’ve played PNG teams in the past.
“Whoever ‘JD’ (coach Jason Demetriou) picks is going to have a big night ahead of them.”
Providing they don’t inflict too much damage, Pride boss Brock Schaefer said the incorporation of a Papua New Guinean team would benefit Cairns.
“They are crazy about their footy up there, as are the big PNG community in Cairns,” Schaefer said.
“This will be an opportunity for them all to gather as one and we’re hoping for a record crowd, which is pretty extraordinary considering it’s only a trial game.”
It will be the Pride’s second preseason run they play the North Queensland Cowboys under-20s on Saturday after a solid fitness programme that has included arduous core strength sessions in the gym.
“The boys here have been training really well and we’re looking forward to it, especially if there are some big crowds,” he said.
The Cairns-based club dominated the regular season to finish minor premiers for the first time last year, only to fade away and miss the grand final.
“After falling short at end of last season they want to get back into the winner’s circle,” said Leary, who has played two NRL games for the Cowboys.
“In the three years I’ve been involved with the Pride, it’s the best team we’ve put together by far. The National