Raised on the Sunshine Coast, Connor Luhan arrived at the Sharks via a stint at the Melbourne Storm, with the young front rower making quite an impression at the Cronulla club in their Jersey Flegg team in 2019.
Liking what they saw last year, the Sharks included Luhan in their summer NRL training squad on a train and trial contract, with NRL coach John Morris impressed with the progress the youngster has made.
“He’s a good kid and he’s been very good, trained really well through the off-season,” Morris offered.
So good in fact, that he didn’t hesitate to include Luhan in the travelling party for the trial match against the Bulldogs in Papua New Guinea, where significantly the 20-year-old will play his first game at an NRL level and he’ll do it in a place where he has family ties.
It will be an opportunity for the young 108kgs prop to show what he’s got against a Bulldogs line-up featuring the likes of State of Origin front rower Dylan Napa and former NSW outside back Will Hopoate.
For Luhan, who has worked hard, shed some weight and seamlessly fit into the Sharks full time NRL training group, it will be a happy homecoming of sorts, although having grown up with mum and his sisters on the Sunshine Coast, the trip to PNG will be his first.
“I’ve been in touch with my uncle, I’ve had contact from the local media up there and I’ve received heaps of messages from family who are in PNG,” Luhan said before heading to Port Moresby on Thursday. “But I’ve never been up there, so it will be interesting.”
Luhan is set to be a part of a young Sharks team for the PNG trial tomorrow night, one featuring a number of players pushing for inclusion in the NRL team come round one.
Sione Katoa on the wing is one looking to make his mark, as is Connor Tracey, the young half having impressed Morris throughout the pre-season, while Billy Magoulias gets his chance at lock.
Toby Rudolf, a standout for the Newtown Jets late in 2019 after recovering from a knee reconstruction, gets his opportunity to show his abilities up against the likes of Napa, Aiden Tolman and a strong Bulldogs pack, while Scott Sorensen, Cameron King and Teig Wilton will be amongst those also hoping to claim a place in the Sharks side in the early rounds of the NRL competition.
On the other side of the ledger, the Bulldogs have brought a slightly more seasoned group to Port Moresby, with Hopoate, Lachlan Lewis, Remis Smith and Jack Cogger in the backs, Napa and Tolman in the forwards, adding up to a side boasting plenty of NRL experience.
While the main objective of the trip is to blow off the cobwebs of a long off-season with the trial match against the Bulldogs, already in just one day in town both clubs have made a huge impact on the local community.
A country where their passion for rugby league is unmatched, the two teams have been embraced by Papua New Guinea locals at a signing session, a civic reception and a school visit, with more activities planned for today.
The trial game is scheduled to get underway at 5.30pm local time at the PNG Football Stadium.
Sharks Team List
1 Will Kennedy
2 Sione Katoa
3 Jackson Ferris
4 Vito Tevaga
5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
6 Connor Tracey
7 Brayden Trindall
8 Toby Rudolf
9 Cameron King
10 Royce Hunt
11 Scott Sorensen
12 Siosifa Talakai
13 Billy Magoulias
14 Teig Wilton
15 Kyle Patterson
16 Kayleb Milne
17 Connor Luhan
18 Frankie Pele
19 Tom Hazelton
20 Wes Lolo
21 Jonaiah Lualua
22 Lorenzo Mulitalo
23 Brock Gray