The MRDC-Prima backed franchise, eager to rid themselves of the cellar dwellers tag and couldn’t have asked for better opportunity to gauge their ability with an expected block-buster tie with the classy Gurias. The match set to be the official opener for Papua New Guinea’s premier semi-professional competition has all the trimmings for an exciting start in the East New Britain capital.
The crocodiles already dubbed the ‘Bula Isapea’ may not be favoured to win especially against the prominent Gurias home-ground record, but they will test the waters.
Isapea coach Bobby Ako yesterday the inclusion of their Fijian brothers has lifted the team morale and has created excitement and the expectation that the team can make the finals after finishing second last in 2013.
Round 1 Fixtures: Pool 1 – Hela Wigmen vs Port Moresby Vipers, Mt Hagen Eagles vs Mendi Muruks, Enga Mioks Bye; Pool 2 – Agmark Gurias vs Gulf Isapea, Goroka Lahanis vs Lae Tigers, Simbu Lions Bye.
“We know the Gurias are an established outfit and whilst it’s still early days yet it will be a good chance to see where we stand with a positive performance,” Ako said.
He said Naivogo and Rarokoliwa at this stage will come off the bench.
“The Fijians look sharp in training and they will certainly add that extra power in the punch for us on Sunday,” he added.
The Isapea line-up includes basketball star player Apia Muri who will start on the wing.
The Isapea starting line-up: Jojo Forova, George Kose, John Horope, Robert Lavatu, Muri, Joshua Thomas, Samson Pirika, Moore Evara, Paul Tony, Andrew Luke Junior, Bernard Goma, Kipsy Waiye, Ila Alu. Reserves: John Agiru, Naivogo, Rarokoliwa, Bernard Luke.
Gurias team manager Mapua Tamtu said the team has prepared well this week after a good pre-season and despite one or two regulars likely to be unavailable they will be competitive.
Former Isapea Samuel Hamari has been named in the back-row and former PNG Sevens international Jason Mission in the centres.
Prominent players not named include Jackie Marcus, Nelson Daplen and Pidi Tongap.
The tentative Gurias starting line-up: Boas Ruru, Chris Jerry, Mission, Mathew Puke, William Aquila, Ase Boas, Watson Boas, Travis Waninara, Sakias Kabange, Jackson Undie, Hamari, Emmanuel John, Danny Patrick. Reserves: Tau Fitzgerald, Daniel Pae, Adrian Buangas, Junior Pangogo, Chicko Mairi.