By MELTON PAIS
DIGICEL Cup talent will now carry the hopes of Papua New Guinea rugby league fans in the PNG Under-23 Residents side against New South Wales Country U23 on Sunday.
The PNG U23s for this inaugural clash in Port Moresby was announced earlier this week.
Former Hunters squad member Eddie Dafa, was named captain with Lae Tigers rising star Edwin Ipape his vice-captain.
Dafa despite being given a leadership role for the first time, has played in the Digicel Cup competition for three seasons, and is no stranger to big games having played for the Enga Mioks in this year’s grand final against the Goroka Lahanis.
“I’m very excited to lead a pack full of young and hungry boys,” Dafa said.
“We’re all thankful that the PNGRFL came up with this game to give Digicel Cup players a chance to representative the country. I’m also honoured that the coach and management had trust in me to captain the side.”
“We have few experience players who have tasted the representative matches like Muka Peter Kulu and Stanford Talita, and Kingston Paul who have played for Prime Minister’s 13. They’ll support me.”
Dafa admitted that several members of the PNG Residents squad had hoped to be given an opportunity in the PM’s 13 game but would now be out to prove to selectors that they could play at international level.
“The boys have been working hard over the last couple of days and they have been serious about this game,” Dafa said.
Dafa urged fans to come to the National Football Stadium to see another national side taking on an Australian team.
Last week three PNG teams played three Aussie sides with the Under-16s beating NSW Country 14-12 while the Orchids (women) lost 40-4 and PNG PM’s 13 lost 34-18 for a 3-1 ledger to Australian sides.
Dafa said he was confident his side could even the ledger because they were all Digicel Cup level players. “My role will be a lot easier because we have some talented guys here like vice-captain Edwin Ipape who is one of the best five-eighths in the Digicel Cup,” Dafa said.
Ipape said he was focusing on his role as the team’s one of the team’s playmakers and kicker alongside halfback Nicky Hasu.
“I have a big role so I’m just preparing so I can lead from the halves with the passing and kicking,” Ipape said.
“This will be my first time to represent PNG so I’m very excited.”
Ipape also backed Dafa’s call for fans to come and watch the game.
Halfback Hasu said that playing alongside players like Dafa, Ipape and the rest of team was an honour in itself and he would be doing all he could to secure the win and not let his teammates down.
“We’ve got a good team made of some of the best Digicel Cup players and we’re just thankful for this chance.
“We’re taking this game very seriously and won’t let the fans down.”
Mioks hooker Woods Kawage said the PNG Resident idea was a great one and he could not wait to take the field.
“We’ve got a good spirit in the team and this is our chance to impress.”
By MELTON PAIS