The National, Friday February 7th, 2014
By HENRY MORABANG
DEFENDING champions Hekari United meet Eastern Stars in the opening round of the National Soccer League tomorrow in Port Moresby.
The match of the round will be played at the Bisini soccer ground, the reigning champions will be in for a torrid time against one of the competition’s darkhorses.
Hekari coach Jerry Allen and team manageress Vonnie Kapi Natto predicted a fired up Stars outfit with a more experienced roster to start quickly and keep the heat on the Reds.
“We’ve been training for the season for the last three months including the period that the competition start was delayed and the boys can’t wait to play the first match,” Kapi Natto said.
Hekari has retained the services of all its local and international players except for Nicholas Muri of Solomon Island and Jean Kaltak of Vanuatu.
Local stars David Muta, Samuel Kini, Joe Daniel, Koriak Upaiga, Raymond Gunemba and Nigel Dabinyaba are expected to feature prominently against the Milne Bay franchise.
Stars coach Trevor Ire was equally confident that his boys would put up a good game against the reigning champions.
“This will be the biggest test for us,” Ire said.
“The match will gauge our performance and indicate how competitive the Stars will be in 2014.”
Despite the departure of Michael Foster and Kialou Pouru to new franchise Admiralty, Ire was confident his young charges would combine well with the experienced players in Joshua Niebo, Junior Sasu, Kelly Jampu, Felix Bondaluk and Timothy Joe.
In the first match, Oro face an unknown quantity in Admiralty.
The Manus side lost their two warm-up matches to Hekari last month conceding seven goals and scoring two while Oro drew 0-0 with the defending champs in their warm-up fixture.
Coincidently, the Turia brothers, Joe (Oro) and Toru (Admiralty) will be up against each other on the day to see who will prevail in the sibling rivalry.
Admiralty, with the inclusion of Solomon Islander Lawrence Diau, are capable of getting their maiden win but Oro look to be the better prepared side.