Coca-Cola Ipatas Cup set for return after Covid-19 hiatus

Sam Koi

THE 2022 Coca-Cola Ipatas Cup will commence this week after being postponed since last November due to Coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions on public gatherings and funding constraints.
Competition manager Sam Koi said the tournament would start off with the Enga and Jiwaka challenge kicking off tomorrow at Wapenamanda Primary School in Enga and Kimil Rugby League Ground in Jiwaka.
“We’re doing our best to ensure that the games are completed in six weeks before we go to the finals, if not then we’ll probably have the finals in March,” Koi said.
“We have the two provinces kicking off the cup tomorrow.
“For Enga, there are only 12 teams so the games will be completed by Sunday.
“We have a total of 16 teams for the Jiwaka challenge so they’ve been divided to play over two weekends.”
Koi said the organisers were happy to finally start the competition after waiting for approval from the National Pandemic Control Centre (and provincial pandemic committees) for over two months.
“I know it’s been a hassle, time consuming and costly for most of the teams to have to wait this long,” he said.
“Once we get approval from the provincial pandemic committee (for the host provinces) then we should be able to complete the games within six weeks.
“We have a total of 108 teams participating from Hela, Enga, Western Highlands, Jiwaka, Eastern Highlands, Morobe and West New Britain.
“That figure excludes the National Capital District, Central, East New Britain, Chimbu and Southern Highlands.
“For the New Guinea Islands, discussions are still ongoing with East New Britain, New Ireland and Autonomous Region of Bougainville.”
Koi said the annual offseason tournament was into its 20th year and had helped produce many Digicel Cup stars and develop the code in its rugby league heartland of the Highlands. “It’s the competition’s 20th year now so we’d like to make it bigger and better.
“We’d like to go to all provinces within PNG but we can take the game as far as our sponsorship allows.
“We can’t do much at this stage with the pandemic affecting a lot business and the situation in the economy is not conducive for sponsorship for the competition.”
Meanwhile, Koi added that the cup grand final would be hosted in Wabag — the last final held there was in 2015.