THE call-up of Kumul Dion Aiye to the Hunters has left a huge void for the Agmark Gurias Digicel Cup rugby league campaign this year.
The loss of the experienced campaigner now adds extra pressure on coach Oscar Tonga to find a suitable replacement with just two weeks before the season gets underway.
This affectively cuts off a tried and tested halves combination between Aiye and Kumul teammate Ase Boas.
Boas, a policeman, had opted to maintain his job, and had declined the offer of a full-time footballer.
The staging of the annual Trukai sponsored NGI 9s tournament at the Kalabond Stadium presents Tonga the opportunity tie down a host options, with the tournament being the last chance for players to impress.
He confirmed that a final 25-man squad will be named early next week.
Whilst no names have been suggested, the return of former playmaker Matalu Rolly in the train-on squad is a possible option, but on experience Boas is likely to be shifted to the number six role.
Tonga would not confirm who the options were, but indicated that there are a lot of talent on their current roster.
He added that the departure of prop Joe Bruno, hooker Wartovo Puara Jnr and full-back Albert Patak has opened the door more than anything else for others to make the step up.
Tonga said the return of workaholic lock Pidi Tongap from after a two season lay-off due to injury and Junior Pangogo from school commitments are some of the experienced hands that are returning to add strength to their cause.
Tonga who will also be the tournament director for the Trukai NGI 9s, said 14 teams, a majority from the local clubs plus two from Bougainville and one from Kimbe and Kavieng, will see an exciting weekend of rugby.
He said early favourites Gazelle Dragons and Pomio are the teams to beat, going on their form from last year.
The Dragons, with Tongap, Eliab Pauria Jnr, Emmanuel Toide, Eliakam Lukara and Nelson Daplen will take some beating.
However Pomio, with the Boas brothers Ase, Watson and Noel, Matalau and promising talent Chicko Mairi from the Saroa Raiders in the Rigo League in the Central Province are tipped to cause an upset.
Tonga said all members of their train-on squad will be playing with their respective teams, from the new potentials looking to impress include former PNG Sevens rugby union international Jason Mission, Simon Peter from Brothers in Port Moresby, Sam Koka from the Enga Mioks, Jackson Undie from the Lions and schoolboy talent Ereman Ken.
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Downer Rugby League 9s World Cup
- PNG Kumuls 0 Australia 26
- PNG Kumuls 18 New Zealand Kiwis 18
- PNG Kumuls 23 USA Tomahawks 10
Pacific Test Results
201 9 - PNG Kumuls 28 Great Britain Lions 10
2019 - Fiji Bati 22 PNG Kumuls 20
2019 - PNG Kumls 6 Samoa 24
2018 - PNG Kumuls 26 Fiji Bati 14
2017 - PNG Kumuls 32 Cook Islands 22
2016 - PNG Kumuls 24 Fiji Bati 22
2015- Fiji Bati 22 PNG Kumuls 22
World Cup Results
Round 1 : PNG Kumuls 50 Wales 6
Round 2: PNG Kumuls 14 Ireland 6
Round 3 PNG Kumuls 64 USA 0
Quarter Finals : PNG Kumuls 6 England 36