Four new teams and only one spot

Normal, Sports

The National – Thursday, December 16, 2010

THE PNG National Rugby League board will have some tough decisions to make before the start of its new season with three new franchises as well as a former team knocking at its door seeking inclusion in the semi-professional competition.
However, competition for the places is sure to intensify after PNGNRL board chairman Don Fox stated that the new format for next season would only allow one more new team.
Currently there are nine teams – Goroka Lahanis, Mendi Muruks, Enga Mioks, Port Moresby Vipers, Simbu Warriors, Mt Hagen Kuris, Rabaul Gurias, Lae Bombers and  Masta Mak Rangers –  which participated this season but newly touted franchises Hela Wigmen, Central Lagatois and Gulf Isapeas are also vying for inclusion into the contest in an expanded competition next year.
Mt Hagen Eagles, who sat out this season after failing to meet the registration criteria, have tossed their hat back in the ring and are also making moves to re-enter.
Of the new franchises, Lagatois have made the strongest case with representative Ivan Ravu presenting his team’s interest in Lae last weekend to the PNGNRL board.
Hela and Gulf only sent in written submissions but with big money backing them,  they are adamant they want to be part of the new season.
Meanwhile, Mt Hagen Eagles board chairman Peter Bepi, in a fax to The National yesterday, announced they were preparing to re-enter the inter-city contest next season.
Bepi said that the Eagles had already secured a lucrative three-year sponsorship with an as yet unnamed company and had embarked on a recruitment drive. He said his board would also make it a policy to chose players exclusively from with in the province but added  that attempts were being made to attract several former Eagles and current Kumuls back to Mt Hagen.
Western Highlands is also represented by the Kuris who struggled through the season finishing last.
With Fox still to make a statement on the situation the main consideration is likely to be the new franchises ability to; field competitive teams;  engender adequate interest and support from fans and sponsors alike; and provide quality homegrounds ensuring a portion of the revenue from gate collections is remitted to the PNGNRL.
But the most important issue will be the franchises’ ability to settle its registration requirements well before the season starts in April.
Naming rights sponsorship is K90,000 however with the logjam of teams hoping to crack the PNGNRL season that financial ceiling could be further increased.
Another option open to the franchises if the PNGNRL does not budge from its 10-team format could be the cost effective measure of merging teams.
Nevertheless this probably would not be an option for most teams owing to the parochial nature of the competition.