The National, Friday 12th April, 2013
By JOHN PANGKATANA
A CAULDRON of death awaits PRK Mendi Muruks when they open the 2013 Digicel Cup at the Kalabond Oval on Sunday.
In a replay of last year’s grand final, reigning champions Agmark Rabaul Gurias will play host to the pride of the Southern Highlands in Kokopo, East New Britain.
For the Muruks, and all visiting teams the Kalabond Oval has always been a graveyard.
The challenge to break that hoodoo has set the stage for a bumper opening clash.
Winning coach Michael Marum yesterday said their successful tour of North Queensland had shown a marked improvement in players attitude and approach.
“We’re always competitive at home and despite losing some of our bigger players (Rodney Pora, Kot Kerowa, Daniel Pai, Bobby Pau and Junior Pangogo) we’ll be pushing to maintain our good run at home,” he said.
Gurias star playmaker Dion Aiye will dictate play with newly-appointed skipper Ase Boas at halfback and their pacey backline that includes Kumul back Albert Patak, Emmanuel Toide, Chris Jerry, Jack Marcus and Francis Paniu.
The naming of former Lae Snax Tigers frontman Mark Mexico alongside new signings Danny Patrick from the Mioks and former Port Moresby Vipers centre Kevin Frank gives the Gurias an ominous look.
The Muruks under new coach Julian O’Neill have not had the best of preparation but they certainly will not be flying across the Bismark Sea for a holiday.
In the nation’s capital, the Stop N Shop Port Moresby Vipers are pushing to return some lost glory when they open up their campaign against the second coming of the Kemele Hela Wigmen at the Lloyd Robson Oval.
The PRK Gulf Isapea outfit, under new coach Nigel Hukula, will take on the Bintangor Goroka Lahanis in the Eastern Highlands capital. While the Lahanis should win at home, Hukula may have something up his sleeve against his former club.
The Chimbu franchise, TNA Lions will find the going tough against the Enga Mioks at the Johnson Siki Oval, in Wabag.
Should be interesting how former Lions players Esau Siune, Andrew Sipil and Sonny Daing front-up against their former teammates.
Lae’s Snax Tigers, under Stanley Tepend, have a test on their hands against a determined Wamp Nga Mt Hagen Eagles with Jason Tali, Sent Angra and Laima Pora get their team up at the Lae Rugby League Oval on Sunday.
With this a World Cup year, the scramble for Kumul spots is likely to lift the playing standards and there could some surprises in store for the semi-professional competition.