By MELTON PAIS
NEXT year is set to be an exciting one for the Digicel Cup.
This year, the Bintangor Goroka Lahanis won the Digicel Cup and they will return as the defending champions when the season starts in April.
The calendar for the semi-professional rugby league competition will be released early next year, with 12 franchises — including new teams Central Dabaris and Kimbe Cutters — set to battle it out for the major prize.
The Mt Hagen Eagles re-enter the competition after they were suspended in 2016.
The Dabaris’ and Cutters’ bids were given the nod by the Papua New Guinea National Rugby League Competition (PNGNRLC), with an eye on exposing their talent at the semi-professional level.
PNGNRLC, led by chairman Adrian Chow, has not only paved the way for more Digicel cup players to be part of the PNG Hunters programme, but they have managed a largely trouble-free season this year.
In an interview with Digicel Cup administrator Stanley Hondina earlier this year, he confirmed that the season ended smoothly without incidents like field invasions or referee assaults.
Hondina thanked the players, match referees, touches judges, the franchise officials and the supporters for ensuring the matches were played without any major hiccups.
He said the standard of the game was improving each year.
“We had a few incidents in the first three rounds early this year that resulted in players and officials being cited and receiving suspensions,” Hondina said.
“Fewer incidents in round four but the match review committee couldn’t find fault in the players and team officials who were cited, so it was regarded as light offences.
“I am pleased to announce all the matches were clean. We didn’t receive any offence reports from the players and officials against our referees and touch judges.”
By MELTON PAIS