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The Papua New Guinea National Rugby League Competition (PNGNRLC) has tentatively set the weekend of July 4 and 5, 2020 as a ‘possible’ date to kick off the 2020 Digicel Cup competition. This will however be subject to the endorsement of the relevant authorities on the containment of the corona virus pandemic and post- State of Emergency (SOE) arrangements.
PNGNRLC Manager Stanley Hondina in an email to the 12 Digicel Cup Franchise Chairmen and Managers early this week said due to the rapid changes and developments in multiple forms hourly worldwide over the Covid 19 pandemic, there seems to be some degree of certainty now to engage with all key stakeholders for the country’s premier rugby league competition to start.
“Over the past several weeks, we have been in consultations with our sponsors and partners, the SOE controller’s office and the National Government to see how best we can assist during these trying times and the possibilities of PNGNRLC kicking off the Digicel Cup competition for 2020,” Hondina said.
He said in line with the cancellation of the Queensland Intrust Super Cup (ISC) competition and the protocols and processes to follow in response to Covid 19, the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) announced on March 18, 2020, the suspension of all nationwide rugby league programs and competitions including the Digicel Cup until FRIDAY 5 June 2020.
“The Digicel Cup was scheduled to kick off on April 5, 2020 but the PNGRFL took the initiative and proactive step to defer the start of the premier competition by two months,” Hondina said. He said the National Government declared a State of Emergency for 14 days on 23 March, which was subsequently extended by Parliament by a further two months to end on June 2, 2020.
He said travel restrictions by air and between provinces, social distancing, gatherings of 100 or more people not allowed and other orders and directives will have been lifted a few days earlier making a June 5 start impossible. “PNGRFL Chairman SandisTsaka is seeking to have a meeting with the Controller of the SOE and relevant authorities to look at post SOE options, guidelines and that health protocols and processes are in place to be followed and adhered to by all players, officials, stakeholders, sponsors, partners and the general public,” Hondina said.
Hondina said some SOE restrictions such as air travel and travel between provinces may be lifted and relaxed in the coming weeks and a return to a ‘new normal’ looks certain.“This gives our valued sponsors, partners franchises and stakeholders at least for now some space to make necessary plans and decisions for their best interests and circumstances,” he said. “It also gives sufficient time for players and coaching staff to plan their training and preparations for a possible July 5, 2020 kick off.”
Hondina said the PNGNRLC Board will convene a meeting as soon as practicable and among the agendas include a revised competition format and draws, registration fees, sponsorships and team
training, camps and game day protocols. He urged every citizen to respect the SOE directives and restrictions and strictly observe all medical protocols and processes for a better and healthy outcome.
“Our lives and livelihoods will return to normalcy if and when we observe those orders and restrictions in place now,” Hondina said.
“By doing that will allow us to watch and enjoy our number one sport – rugby league.”