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Pride ready for visit of PNG champions

Obert Hondole making a breaking runSkill360 Northern Pride is expecting a bumper crowd to pack into Barlow Park this Saturday for the club’s mouth-watering trial match against PNG national champions Agmark Rabaul Gurias.


The last time the Pride played a PNG side was in February 2009 when more than 5,000 people watched the North Queensland club defeat the PNG Kumuls 38-8 in Cairns.


And Pride Head Coach Jason Demetriou is hoping for another huge crowd this time around against the PNG rugby league heavyweights, who won the prestigious national Digicel Cup last season.


“I’ve watched the video of their grand final last year, and there is no doubt they are a very good side,” Demetriou said.


“They’re a typical PNG side – very passionate and attack-minded with an exciting brand of footy, and it will be a very physical encounter, especially in the early part of each half.


“I’m expecting a huge turn out from the strong Papua New Guinean community in Cairns, and encourage them to come down and support their domestic champions in what will be a fantastic occasion.”


Demetriou has experience of playing against PNG players while a player himself in the UK Super League.


“I’ve played against PNG legends such as Stanley Gene, Johnny Wilshere, Makali Aizue and Jessie Joe Parker, and they were all really tough opponents,” he said.


Gurias coach and former PNG Kumuls star Michael Marum also encouraged his compatriots living in Cairns to watch his team take on the Pride.


“The Agmark Gurias are the only local team in the local PNG competition to ever embark on such a trial match,” said Marum.


“This match means that Gurias will test their skills internationally, raising the bar on the standard of the game played in the local competition to an international level.


“To all our supporters and fellow Papua New Guineans in Cairns, your presence on the night will only spur on our boys.


“Playing outside of PNG as a team will be new to our boys, and friendly familiar faces in the stands will reassure them of their ability and mental confidence to perform at their best.”


Northern Pride has been boosted by the return of captain Ty Williams from a knee reconstruction suffered in July last year, and Demetriou is delighted to have the former North Queensland Cowboys star back in action.


“I am really excited to see Ty back in the team this weekend,” Demetriou said.


“His attitude towards his rehab has been outstanding and his experience on the training field has been evident over the past few weeks.


“Ty is at the back end of his career but still has plenty to offer, and I believe he will play a pivotal role both on and off the field for us in 2013.”


Agmark Rabaul Gurias arrive in Cairns on Thursday night, with a training session and welcome function on Friday, before the big game on Saturday, kick-off 6.30pm.


Barlow Park’s gates open at 1.30pm on Saturday with three exciting curtain-raisers as the Gurias Reserves take on Edmonton Storm (5pm), and the Pride Academy U16s (2pm) and U18s (3.30pm) play the Townsville Stingers.


The Pride’s first Intrust Super Cup match of the season is a blockbuster North Queensland derby against the Mackay Cutters on 16 March, also at Barlow Park.


Northern Pride’s exciting new season membership packages are now available with options available for every football supporter.


The annual membership packages, which are available to buy from the Pride’s new online shop at www.morethanpride.com.au, start from just $20 (juniors and concession) and $40 for adults.


PRIDE TEAM v AGMARK GURIAS (Saturday, 6.30pm, Barlow Park)

1. Hezron Murgha 2. Semi Tadulala 3. Brett Anderson 4. Ty Williams  5. Davin Crampton 6. Shaun Nona 7. Sam Obst 8. Ben Laity 9. Ryan Ghietti 10. Aidan Smith 11. Brent Oosen 12. Steve Snitch 13. Ben Spina. Extended interchange:  Alex Starmer, Nick Dorante, Tom Hancock, Mervyn Walker, Jordan Tighe, Zac Parter, Bradley Stephen, Justin Castellaro, Jordan Biondi –Odo, Brian Murgha, Josateki Murray, Pete Tognolini.


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