Fans flocking to see PNG in state league decider
PAPUA New Guinea could help attract the biggest Intrust Super Cup grand final crowd in history, after ticket sales doubled in support of the Hunters.
Michael Marum's side became the first team to qualify for this year's premiership match on Sunday, after they defeated Redcliffe 6-4 on their home turf in Port Moresby.
With one of the biggest fan bases in the competition, the Queensland Rugby League saw an immediate response to the Hunters' inclusion with an overnight surge of ticket sales.
Following the game on Sunday, 1000 tickets were snapped up for the grand final at Suncorp Stadium on September 24.
More than 2000 tickets have now been sold to the match and, with close to 20,000 Papua New Guineans living in Queensland plus those who are willing to travel, the QRL is expecting many more seats to go.
The QRL's head of football, Neil Wharton, said it was hopeful of achieving a crowd of more than 10,000 people, which would be one of the competition's biggest grand final attendances.
"If the PNG community decide to turn up en masse, it could push us over the 10,000 mark," Wharton said.
"It's enormous for the country. It does a lot for the game in PNG."
Last year, just under 7000 people watched Burleigh claim the premiership, while 8000 were in attendance in 2015.
Wharton also said there were early indications yesterday that the Hunters were looking at ways to assist corporate partners and fans who wanted to travel to Queensland for the match.
The QRL has invited Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill as a guest and it is understood he is keen to attend.
PNG's favourite rugby league son, David Mead, will also throw his support behind his birth nation.
He said the Hunters making their first grand final was a "huge achievement" for the entire country.
"I'll definitely be supporting them and hopefully they can get across and it boosts the nation's morale," he said.
"It's going to mean everything to them. Rugby league is the national sport ... it's a religion over there. Everyone is very passionate and excited by rugby league.
"Not only is the Hunters making the grand final big for the country but to have three World Cup games later on in the year, it's exciting times for PNG, that's for sure."
Redcliffe and Sunshine Coast will play on Sunday to determine who will meet the Hunters in the grand final.