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PNG NRLC Board announce 2024 Digicel-ExxonMobil Cup teams

Updated: Apr 29

The Papua New Guinea National Rugby League Competition (PNG NRLC) Board announced that 12 teams will take part in the Digicel-ExxonMobil Cup for the 2024 season  on Tuesday, December 5, 2023.

It was confirmed that the eleven teams who took part in the 2023 season have retained their spots while the debuting franchise, Sepik Pride, was omitted, making way for Waghi Tumbe’s re-entry to the competition. 

Interestingly, four new clubs have expressed their interests to the PNGNRLC Board to enter the semi-professional competition next year. The four bidders were Waghi Tumbe, Simbu Warriors, Morobe Kandes and Niu Ailen Chiefs. However, only Tumbe’s bid was successful.

PNGNRLC General Manager, Leith Issac, said the board has deliberated for a few weeks before reaching the final decision surrounding Tumbe’s inclusion and Pride’s omission. 

“This announcement comes after much deliberation with the key stakeholders, including the Board of PNGNRLC and also with findings from the recent club audits conducted by the PNGRFL’s High Performance team,” Issac said.

“As part of implementation of the PNGNRLC Strategic Plan of which club professionalism is a key pillar, the audit was an initiative carried out to understand the existing franchises’ challenges, strengths and how information and lessons can be shared across all clubs in a coordinated manner.”

The Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) Chief Executive Officer, Stanley Hondina added that the Sepik Pride failed to meet some of the requirements of the competition, causing their omission. 

“Of the existing 12 teams, we regretfully cut out one franchise who did not meet the requirements that we have set. 

“Sepik Pride for this year has been asked to take leave and go back and work on a couple of items that they fell short on in compliance and we will work with them across our compliance team in the NRLC,” Hondina said. 

Moreover, Mr. Hondina emphasized on the expansion of the competition and said the PNGNRLC wanted to expand the competition to 14 or 16 teams but because of the situations beyond their control, they decided to stick with a 12-team competition.

“We will keep this year’s competition the same as last year with 12 teams. This decision was more so based around the unforeseen external circumstances that we have with flight disruptions and economical challenges that we are going through. Given these challenges, we felt it was not the right time to make a 14 or 16 team to expand the competition,” he stated.

“While it is in our interest as the national sport in this country to expand those parameters and give opportunity to more people to be involved, we are also worried about the realities around it.

“Running through last year’s financials and the data that we kept, we spent a little bit more than what we used to spend on an average Digicel-ExxonMobil Cup season. 

“This year, we have had a couple of flight disruptions, which led to extra night accommodations and meals. We also had to pay for the teams to travel a day or two early to their destinations. We have had some forfeits and cancelations that has prompted us to think otherwise. 

“The concerns of expansion, while it is in our interest and we are driving it to make it happen, we think 2024 is not the time to do that, given all the circumstances. Therefore, we have settled down with a 12-team competition for next year.”  

CEO Hondina thanked the Board and Management of PNGNRLC and wished the 12 teams the best for the 2024 Digicel-ExxonMobil Cup season.

“On behalf of the PNGRFL Board and Management, I would like to congratulate Chairman Adrian Chow and his board for the manner of professionalism brought into the game, building systems and processes that can help our game get better,” he said.

“We are excited to see the connections between the franchises and their respective associates and affiliates in their catchment areas working together – an outcome we have always wanted to get for a while.

“We also congratulate the 12 successful teams for season 2024 and wish them all the best in their preparations."

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