By TONY PALME
THE suspension of the Hagen Eagles team for three years will likely have players coming through the junior ranks in the local leagues looking elsewhere for recruitment, a local league official says.
Nebliyer Rugby League president Michael Lakati said his association was affiliated with the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League but the chances of their players making it into the Eagles team were now over.
“We have identified several players with raw talent but the pathway into the semiprofessional arena has been disrupted with the Eagles ban,” Lakati said. “This presents an opportunity for other inter-city clubs to offer them a deal.
“I want to assure the PNGNRL board, major sponsors and teams around the nation that what transpired on the field in the Eagles-Gurias preliminary final that resulted in violence and the unfortunate death of a Gurias fan was not what the franchise or Western Highlanders wanted to see happening.
“The people of Western Highlands apologise and pass our condolence to the family of the late Joe Pidik for the unfortunate incident.
“We also apologise to our fans and sponsors of the Eagles for their support.
“You have contributed to the success of the team.”
Lakati said rugby league was the most-preferred sport in the country and it must continue to be promoted to nurture good sportsmanship and create unity.
He said Western Highlands was known for producing rugby league players who have represented the country at the international and semi-porfessional level with pride.
“Eagles are the pride of Western Highlands. The actions of one team official does not reflect the desires of the club or Western Highlanders.”
He said that Nebliyer league was interested in joining the Digicel Cup if given the opportunity.
Lakati urged the PNGRFL to consider a different team from Western Highlands to bid for the Digicel Cup.
He appealed to the WHP government, business houses, local MP Benjamin Poponawa, and elites from Tambul-Nebliyer to support the Nebliyer league.
By TONY PALME