By KEITH PUARIA
LOCAL Sea transport giant, Starships (PNG) Limited, has put its hand up for rugby union in the New Guinea Islands, as major sponsor for the NGI Sevens rugby union circuit,
The major sponsorship has slashed travel costs for all teams that will travel around the region on the circuit, with a charge of K1 per member of a team, per leg, ultimately granting naming rights to the circuit, the Starships 7s circuit.
“This sponsorship is huge for the growth of rugby union in the region, especially the sevens tournament and I thank Peter Sharpe on behalf of the NGI 7s committee.
“The sponsorship has enabled teams to travel almost for free, which is the major cost factor for all touring sides as sponsorship is hard to come by within the New Guinea Islands region,” NGI rugby’s Freddie Matthies said yesterday.
The sponsorship will start this year and covers two teams from each province in the region, the select side and a development squad, as well as invitational sides, Lae Unitech Reds and Madang Madgauns, who have been part of the NGI calendar over past events.
The circuit will consist of four tournaments throughout the region, starting with the first leg in Rabaul, the Frangipani Sevens on June 11 and 12, the second leg in Kimbe July 23-24 and then the Kavieng and Buka tournaments, which are yet to be confirmed.
Matthies said the committee had decided that with eight visiting sides travelling, the host province would make up the other eight teams for a 16-team tournament.
Apart from regular sides, Kimbe Rebels, NIP Drongos, ENB Kaias and the Bougainville Black Orchids, the invitation has also been extended to interested sides outside the region.
“It is a good concept for our players in NGI, regular competitions and tournaments ensure players have the best opportunity to prepare before the national tournaments in Port Moresby and overseas,” Matthies said.
He added that the NGI region was now taking the lead in achieving the next level of preparation, with the help of such corporate support from Starships and the PNGRFU should place more focus on the shorter version of the game.
“I believe we have a strong chance of competing at the international level in 7s than 15s.
The 15s game is too complex for PNG to handle and we need proper programmes to compete.
“The game needs to be played semi-professional so players are playing full time and are paid,” he added.