The Panthers will face 2017 Intrust Super Cup premiers Papua New Guinea Hunters in the State Championship at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
The State Championship game was introduced in 2014 and pits the winners of the NSW and Queensland competitions against each other as the curtain-raiser to the NRL Grand Final.
The Hunters were introduced as the 13th side in the Queensland Cup in 2014 and have already built a strong record across their four seasons. Based out of the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby, the Hunters regularly play in front of a raucous and passionate 7000 capacity crowd.
Their debut season saw them finish agonisingly short of a maiden finals appearance by one competition point but they backed up the following year to finish second on the Queensland Cup ladder, before eventually going down to Ipswich Jets in a Preliminary Final.
They repeated the feat in 2016 by finishing second on the renamed Intrust Super Cup ladder but had their finals campaign ended in the first week.
Their breakthrough season came this year as they dominated the competition from start to finish by claiming the Minor Premiership on the way to their Grand Final triumph. The title decider was played in front of a record crowd for a Queensland Cup match with 11,260 fans witnessing the historic match at Suncorp Stadium.
The Hunters are led by long-serving PNG icon Michael Marum. The former Kumuls representative and current Head Coach has been at the helm since their inaugural season and has overseen their dramatic rise to the pinnacle of the competition.
Their squad contains two familiar faces to Panthers fans with brothers Stanton and Wellington Albert playing key roles in their success. Both were regular fixtures in the Holden Cup and NSW Cup sides during their time with the Panthers before returning home in 2016 to be part of the Hunters side.
Captain Ase Boas has been the standout for the Hunters, leading their charge in to the finals and playing an instrumental role in the decider by producing the kick for Willie Minoga to score and secure victory in the dying moments.
His outstanding season was capped off by being named the Courier Mail Best and Fairest Medallist and winner of the XXXX People's Choice Award.
Despite the success they have already achieved this season, the Hunters will be desperate to give the rugby league loving nation of PNG another reason to celebrate as they take on the Panthers.