Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - MICHAEL THOMPSON

tra­tors. The ex­change stu­dents joined JCU ear­lier this year dur­ing James Cook Univer­sity’s ori­en­ta­tion week, and while most have since fin­ished their ex­change pro­grams and re­turned home, Sents and Handupi are still around to help JCU play their way to­wards fi­nals football.

“They’ve cer­tainly bought into the team cul­ture, but if any­thing they’ve ac­tu­ally brought some­thing to us,” Saints A- grade cap­tain Jake McManus said.

“They’re al­ways show­ing up for team events and they’re re­ally friendly blokes who have come here and fit- ted in re­ally well. They’re tough play­ers who love a bit of con­tact, but they’re hum­ble blokes.”

Sents and Handupi hail from Mount Ha­gen in PNG’s Western High­lands Province and have played rugby league all their lives, which is the norm in a coun­try where league is king.

A high­light of their year was play­ing for JCU in a cur­tain- raiser to last month’s clash be­tween the PNG Hun­ters and Townsville Black­hawks at Jack Man­ski Oval, with Sents and Handupi meet­ing many of their league idols.

The big- time op­por­tu­ni­ties have not ended there, with the pair to as­sist pit crews at this week­end’s Townsville 400 as part of their en­gi­neer­ing pro­grams.

“We first met the guys dur­ing ‘ O Week’ and they got pointed our way be­cause they were speak­ing with peo­ple at the rugby union stall but wanted to play league,” Saints chair­man Moses Nel­li­man said. “The or­gan­i­sa­tion of rugby league in Aus­tralia has been a real eye- opener for them, and we’ll def­i­nitely try to keep the con­nec­tion with them go­ing.

“Our boys have been tak­ing them to lunches, din­ners and other events just to let them see more of Townsville, so they’re get­ting the most out of their stay and they’ve been great for our team en­vi­ron­ment.”

This week­end, JCU play another Black­hawks cur­tain­raiser when they take on Char­ters Tow­ers to­mor­row at Jack Man­ski Oval. Norths host Broth­ers tonight at Peggy Ban­field Park in the first of this week­end’s lo­cal games.

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