The National – Thursday, September 15th 2011
By KEVIN TEME
THE decision for Mendi in Southern Highlands to host the sudden-death Digicel Cup semi-final match between Structural Bridging System Muruks and Stop N Shop Port Moresby Vipers has not gone down well with one of the franchise clubs.
Tente Oval had been chosen for the match but Vipers head coach Shane Morris said yesterday that his side would not be travelling to Mendi citing safety of the players as one of the main reasons.
It is understood the choice of the venue came under the instruction of the PNG National Rugby League chairman Tom Higgins.
It is also believed that decision was made on the grounds that Muruks had the upper-hand to decide on the venue after finishing the regular season ahead of Vipers.
After the regular season, the ladder had Bintangor Goroka Lahanis as minor premiers, NGIP Agmark Gurias, Toyota Enga Mioks, Muruks and Vipers making the top five.
Therefore, Muruks had opted to have the match in Mendi because the Lae rugby league grounds were currently undergoing maintenance.
The match initially planned for Lae last weekend did not eventuate because work was progressing on the grounds to prepare for the annual Prime Minister’s XIII clash between PNG and Australia next Sunday.
A Muruks official said it was up to the PNG NRL to weigh the reasons if they were genuine to stop them from travelling for the match.
It will be regarded as an “abandoned” match.
However, Higgins insisted that the game be played in Mendi because it was Muruks second preferred home venue.
Morris said since Mendi had never hosted a Digicel Cup match, it would not be fit for the players to travel for the match.
He said it would be the first time for Mendi to host the preliminary finals between the Vipers and the Muruks.
“This is unrealistic. We can’t just go and play at a venue that has not even hosted one Digicel Cup game. I will not send my players there and we are not going. Other venues are okay but not Mendi,” Morris said.
Reliable sources revealed last night that the PNG NRL board has made recommendation for other venues and Vipers had the right to appeal.
In the other semi-final, Gurias face Lahanis at the National Sport Institute in Goroka on Sunday.