HIGHLANDERS’ UNI FLING A WIN- WIN
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.