By HUXLEY LOVAI
DIGICEL Cup champions the Lae Snax Tigers arrived in Port Moresby yesterday afternoon ahead of their Melanesian Club Championship clash against the Nadi Aviators on Saturday.
The Tigers, who are the current holders of the MCC Cup, will want to go defend their title in front of a partisan crowd.
The Tigers will not have the services of the former captain and five-eighth Charlie Simon, who has joined the SP Hunters for the 2018 season.
This however has not dampened the mood of the Tigers team who will be eager to start off the new season with a victory this weekend.
Tigers coach Stanley Tepend said the game against the Aviators would serve as a valuable trial for them as they fine tune their combinations, preparing for life after the departure of Simon.
“He (Simon) is a class player. His field goal gave us our second premiership last year. There’s a lot of calmness when his on the field. We are going to miss him a lot. It’ll be tough without him but we are looking for a half to fill the spot,” Tepend said.
“We have Mafu Kalas our half back who had a great combination with Charlie (Simon) in 2016 when we won our first premiership. It’s a huge gap but the game this weekend will answer some questions and show us some areas we need to look at.”
Looking to the future the Tigers have included four new players for this season, as Tepend looks to finalise combinations and the best options he has at his disposal will be put to the test come Saturday.
“There are four new players in our squad. We got Casey Dickson from the Mendi Muruks. He played in the Under-23 nines comp last week. We brought him along as part of the side to get to know the players and the team culture.
“We have Paul Kambi back. He was with the Wigmen last year. David Loko won’t be taking part, he was meant to play but he’s injured his knee so we’ve ruled him out for this match.
“We’ve got Mafu (Kalas) and Edwin Ipape in the halves with Joe Joshua at fullback and Wesser Tenza at hooker so we’ve got a good spine.”
The Tigers 17-man side to play the Aviators will be named tomorrow before the captian’s run at 10.30am at the National Football Stadium.
The Tigers-Aviators match is at 1pm on Saturday at the NFS.
Tigers squad: 1. Joe Joshua, 2. Billy Paul, 3. Charles Martin , 4. Nikki Pilyo, 5. Anderson Benford, 6. Edwin Ipape, 7. Mafu Kalas, 8. Ishamel Balkawa, 9. Weser Tenza, 10. Mark Piti, 11. Tiger Emeri, 12. Junior Rop, 13. Paul Kambi; Reserves: 14. Noel Joel, 15. Rex Yallon, 16. Sydney Fred, 17. Paul Mugua, 18. Casey Dickson, 19. Kerry Tapoko, 20. Joejoe Wallamas.
By HUXLEY LOVAI