https://www.thenational.com.pg/three-sides-join-race/ DIGICEL CUP EXPANDS TO 12. THREE teams have been added to next year’s Digicel Cup season with the Hagen Eagles rejoining the competition they were banned from at the end of 2016. The other two are new franchises the Kimbe Cutters (West New Britain) and Central Dabaris (Central). The Chimbu Warriors will not take part in next year’s competition with the PNGNRLC excluding the franchise because it had not secured a home ground (the Warriors played all their home games last year at the Minj Rugby League Oval) as well as being unable to guarantee it could sustain itself throughout the course of the new season. In a statement released yesterday the PNGNRLC under manager Stanley Hondina, pictured, said it was excited to embark on the semi-professional competition’s expansion agenda with the most number of teams so far since the competition was first established in 1990 as the then SP Inter-City Cup. “The PNGNRLC is very excited to announce the expansion of the Digicel Cup competition in 2019. Three new teams have been admitted while one has been dropped,” the statement said. “Chimbu Warriors has been dropped from the competiation for failing to meet certain requirements set last season. “The PNG NRLC board approved their participation last season to play at Minj on the condition that Dickson Oval be upgraded. However, a recent inspection found that there has been no or little improvement made to the oval. “The inspection also showed substantive damage to the fencing which is understood to have arisen from spectator behaviour during a local league grand final.” The PNGNRLC said the Warriors had nominated a field in neighbouring Eastern Highlands in their application to participate next year but the board considered it ‘inappropriate’ as Goroka was already home to the Lahanis who played out of the National Sports Institute. “The Board also noted that the Warriors did not demonstrate sufficient financial support and sponsorship and whether it would become available as the franchise found it difficult to operate towards the end of the 2018 season due to limited financial resources. “Due to these reasons, the PNGNRLC board rejected their application to participate in the 2019 season.” The returning nine clubs are Goroka Lahanis, Mendi Muruks, Enga Mioks, Waghi Tumbe, Lae Tigers, Hela Wigmen, Port Moresby Vipers, Gulf Isou and Agmark Gurias. Four new bids – Mt Hagen Eagles, Central Dabaris, Kimbe Cutters and Mt Hagen Kera Doi – were received. “The board approved the admission of Mt Hagen Eagles, Central Dabaris and Kimbe Cutters into the 2019 Digicel Cup competition. Their applications were successful after meeting all the strict requirements set. “The application by Kera Doi was rejected as it was not accompanied by the required payment of the bid fee.” The PNG NRLC board with guidance and advice from PNGRFL board was confident the decisions made were in the best interest for the growth and development of the game in the country. “The standards set in governance and administration will continue as we strive for best outcomes.” Participation agreements and associated documents will be distributed to all 12 clubs in the coming days so the 2019 season launch and draw can be finalised in the New Year. The new season is scheduled to kick off on Sun, April 7, 2019. “PNG NRLC extends its gratitude to naming rights sponsors Digicel and platinum sponsor SP Brewery for their continued support to our domestic professional competition.” The PNGRFL and PNGNRLC boards welcomed the three new teams — Eagles, Dabaris and Cutters — to the PNGNRLC family and encourage all 12 teams with their players and staff to be good ambassadors for their sponsors and supporters and role models by displaying true sportsmanship on and off the field. Teams in 2019 Digicel Cup: 1. Bintangor Goroka Lahanis, 2. EPG Enga Mioks, 3. Giru Waghi Tumbe, 4. PRK Mendi Muruks, 5. Snax Lae Tigers, 6. Kroton Hela Wigmen, 7. NCDC Port Moresby Vipers, 8. PRK Gulf Isou, 9. Agmark Gurias, 10. Wamp Nga Hagen Eagles, 11. Vitis Central Dabari, 12. Kimbe Cutters.