Even winning the Digicel-ExxonMobil Cup twice in the season 2014 and 2020, the reigning champions Hela Wigmen described this year as ‘special’ for having the feel and taste of playing outside the country, actually with neighbouring Fiji to win the Melanesian Cup challenge.
The two challenging years in which the Kroton-backed side won, they did not have this opportunity to try-out at that level, even Lae Snax Tigers did back in 2019, but congratulations are in order for them finally winning their inaugural title.
Also, it was a title defence mission, since it was held by Tigers, won against the Fiji’s Nadi Aviators, four years ago.
This Melanesian cup challenge between the Papua New Guinea and Fiji’s domestic champion team every season is a rugby league and cultural significance and also a bilateral knot through sport.
Club chairman Andy Hetra praised his side for the effort, adding that it was a perfect start for the team to also trade out few of his new recruits.
Seth Rip’s side lead 16-12 in the opening minutes to finish off in a 28-18 thriller against the Westen State Maroons and the Churchill Park, Lautoka in Fiji on Saturday.
“We have been premiers three times 2014, 2020, and 2022 but we were not able to play the Melanesian Cup on two previous occasions, this year was special,” Hetra told Post-Courier yesterday.
“We thank PNGRFL and PNGNRLC for reviving this after the COVID19 interruption.
“PNG under Lae Snax Tigers were current Melanesian Cup holders. The pressure was on us to defend that, and we had to do that well.
“It was a good test for our depth and pre-season preparations. We had our new players and development players coming through. They stood up to the occasion, and they did well.
“This puts us in a good frame to defend the premiership this year.” CEO Patrick Wundai also commended the side led by skipper Solomon Pokare and PNG rugby Football League and sponsors including Fiji NRL for the trip.