Rugby League The biggest Rugby League off season competition in the country, the Coca Cola Ipatas Cup enters its first finals for the Western End to be staged in Jiwaka Province at the Minj Rugby League Grounds starting today. The Western End Finals will see 16 teams representing Hela Province, Southern Highlands Province, Enga Province, Western Highlands and Simbu Province battle for the top 2 spots to represent the Western End in the Grand Final in Lae set for February 28 to March 1. The 16 teams are Kala United, Yakuman Brothers, Tsak Pembe, Hela 2, Gumini Pythons, Mendi Hawks, Poroma Nuggets, JBS Hawks, Asi Bulldogs, City Tigers, NK Storms, Dakon Waiyer 9er’s, Works Panthers, Kimininga Warriors, East West Ninja’s and Cane Construction Bulldogs. These teams qualified from their respective provinces and will be playing every game to the best of their ability as the finals format only allows for the winners to proceed to the next day, while the losers for Friday and Saturday bow out of the Finals, explained CCIC competition manager Sam Koi. Out of the 174 teams that participated in the Competition throughout the country the first 16 teams now have the opportunity to showcase their talents to claim the two spots for the Grand Final in Lae. New teams that have qualified are the Tsak Pembe from Enga Province, Kala United and East West Ninja’s from the Western Highlands, Hawks, Asi Bulldogs and NK Storms from the Southern Highlands. “These teams will be out in force to prove to teams like Yakuman Brothers, Poroma Nuggets, JBS Hawks, Cane Construction Bulldogs and City Tigers that featured in past finals that it is now time for them to make their mark in the finals. “All teams have a mixture of experience and young players. “As for Kala United they have the Mt Hagen Eagles playmaker Israel Balio, while for Yakuman Brothers they have former Snax Lae Tigers center Charles Martin and the Reto Brothers who play for the Enga Mioks. “They will kick off the first game followed by the underdogs Tsak Pembe and the Hela 2 which is coached by former Guria’s Obed Hondale. “The third game between Gumini Pythons led by former Simbu Warriors frontman Sonny Daing and the Mendi Hawks.” The Asi Bulldogs will be led by veteran and one of the first CCIC products in David Loko, who will lead his team representing the Ialibu District. The Bulldogs will play City Tigers, which is a team founded by late David Ako from the settlements of Warakum in Mount Hagen. “City Tigers will have a lot to play for as they want to ensure they have another day to play in memory of their late sponsor and mentor.” Koi said. All 16 teams have deserved their spots and will give their best, however at this stage the front runners with a good blend of players are the NK Storms of Southern Highlands which have the likes of Miseck Wallen and Daniel Tapol who are experienced Digicel Cup Players for the Wigman and the Muruks, who are also part of the SP PNG Hunters squad. The Storms will play the Darkon Waiyer 9er’s from the Simbu Province which is led by the ever green general Willie Guambo who will be directing play as both teams look to set a benchmark with their style of play. Koi further congratulated the 16 teams from the Western End for making it this far out of the 174 teams that participated. He advised all teams and their supporters to enjoy the game over the weekend and hope they all take ownership of the game and accept the game results by playing in the true spirit of the game. “We would also like to take this time to thank our Patron the Grand Chief Sir Peter Ipatas KBE, GCL, MP and to all our sponsors being Coca Cola Amatil, National Gaming and Control Board, Mineral Resource Enga, Mineral Resources Development Company, Kumul Energy, New Britian Palm Oil and Summit Mt Kare. Koi also thanked Joshua Ambane and his team who have completely changed the Minj Oval by cleaning the whole field and maintaining the field so that for the first time the field and its surrounding has been all cleared and looks conducive to hosting the 16 teams.