The challenge, recently recognised by the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) has again drawn the best from the four regions of the country.
CCIC chief executive officer Timothy Lepa (pictured) yesterday said the hype is on again for this nationwide tournament that not only brings out the best from the rural leagues but serves to unearth new unknown talent.
Lepa further confirmed that as a bonus the competition will receive support from the PNGRFL through referee and coaching clinics as well.
“The Northern Challenge has again drawn huge interest and the co-ordinators have had to deny some clubs for not fulfilling the criteria set,” Lepa said.
Northern Challenge co-ordinator Mona Tonsy Clyde envisages a tough opening bout with this year’s Lae rugby league premiers East Taraka Spiders the pre-post favourite to claim the Gold Pass and K20,000 reward to enter the play-offs stage.
The other confirmed teams from Morobe are Bumbu Barbarians, Kamkumu Crushers, Beyond Dogs, Three-Mile Brothers, Jaka Knights, Armsec Bulolo Miners and Ramu Hauslain Cowboys.
From Madang is Madang Easts, while from the Eastern Highlands are Ok1 Titans of Yonki, Kainantu Crusaders, and Lufa Warriors.
Lepa further confirmed that the Eastern Highlands challenge will follow on February 1-2 also at the Lae Rugby League Oval, due to issues that were brought up during last year’s challenge staged in Goroka.
He said in the Southern Zone challenge from February 7-9, Popondetta will join that leg in what will be a split competition.
“One pool will be played at the Sir William Skate Oval at Kaugere and the other at a location yet to be confirmed in the Central Province,” he said.
“This is so that we are doing our part to promote the game at the rural level as much as possible,” Lepa added.
He said the Western Highlands challenge has only two clubs at this stage who have full-filled the criteria. This leg will be played on February 14-16.
Lepa said the Southern Highlands leg will for the first time be staged in Tari due to the high interest there.
“Reigning champions Mendi Off-Cuts have again registered to play as well in that leg,” he added.
Both the Southern Highlands and Enga Province legs will be played from February 23-25. The Enga leg will be hosted by Banz Rugby League. From February 28 to March 2, the Simbu challenge will get underway in Lae and Jiwaka challenge in Banz simultaneously.
The last leg will be the New Guinea Islands where it will be joined by Vanimo and Wewak. This will be played in Kimbe from March 7-9.
All winners that finish on top in their respective pools will receive the mandatory Gold Pass and K20,000 prize-money to enter the play-offs that start on March 14-16.
Lepa said as per normal all teams that receive Gold Passes will have all their transport, accommodation and meals covered by the CCIC. The National