Hunters hero calls for PNG national holiday
Grand final hero Ase Boas has called for Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to declare Monday a public holiday so that the people of PNG can welcome home the Intrust Super Cup champions in fitting fashion.
Four years after entering Queensland's premier competition, the Hunters created history at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday when they came back from 10-0 down to the Sunshine Coast Falcons after just seven minutes to win 12-10 courtesy of a Willie Minoga try 90 seconds from full-time.
The Hunters' exhilarating win not only marks a point in Queensland and PNG rugby league history that will be remembered forever but grants the PNG players an even greater audience on Sunday when they face off against the Penrith Panthers for the Intrust Super Championship on NRL Grand Final Day.
Plane-loads of Hunters fans had been streaming into Brisbane since Wednesday to help create a record Cup grand final crowd of 11,260 but the noise and celebrations at the ground would have paled in comparison to those happening all across PNG on Sunday night.
Hunters players now stand beside NRL stars as heroes to the rugby league obsessed people of PNG and Boas suggested that everyone should have the opportunity to share their triumph upon their return to Port Moresby.
Prime Minister O'Neill was unable to be at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday due to a prior engagement but after claiming the Duncan Hall Medal as player of the grand final Boas may yet be able to make such a decree himself.
"It should be a public holiday back at home," Boas told NRL.com as adoring fans clamoured to congratulate him on Sunday evening.
"Hopefully the Prime Minister can make it a public holiday tomorrow and we should have a big reception back at home at the airport.
"It means a lot to these people and to the boys to put in this effort this afternoon.
"I think coming here with high hopes, people of Papua New Guinea putting all their trust in us. Coming here we had nothing to lose so we have to fight to the end."
And it took absolutely until the very end for the Hunters to overcome countless errors and turn a mountain of attacking opportunities finally into points with Willie Minoga chasing through to ground an Ase Boas grubber inches inside the dead-ball line.
Hailed as the 'Raging Bull of Kokopo' when the Hunters made their entry into the Intrust Super Cup in 2014, Minoga had bombed one of many golden opportunities to score only eight minutes earlier and admitted that he still doesn't know how he got to the ball in time to score the match-winner.
"I don't know that I'm going to get the try but somehow I did so it's really great for me and my family," Minoga told NRL.com.
"It means a lot to me to go back from the Blackhawks and playing with PNG. I started with the Hunters since the Hunters started and I played two years and then went to Townsville and then went back.
"The first year was really hard for us to compete against the top level but we just work it out and did it today.
"We didn't dream about this. We just planned in our head, five years ahead, but somehow we did it in four years' time."
It is testimony to the influence that Boas – the 2017 Intrust Super Cup Player of the Year – has on his team that even as the clock counted down he encouraged his teammates to stay patient.
He provided the trigger for their first try early in the second half with a grubber that ricocheted off the legs of Falcons players and even after his brother Watson was stretchered from the field after copping a heavy knock defending his team's line his older brother maintained his composure.
"The crowd play a lot of part in it," the 27-year-old said of the fanatical support for the Hunters.
"I was looking up to the clock and there was five minutes to go and we were still down here struggling to get up out there.
"I was telling the boys to just hang in there. We still have time, five minutes is a lot of time and I was positive about it and the crowd kept pushing us until the last one minute to go and we scored the try."