Later today, the Papua New Guinea National Soccer League will kick-off the second half of its season with five fixtures in Lae and Port Moresby, following a dramatic and controversial transfer window which saw five-time championship-winning coach Peter Gunemba sacked from Lae City FC, and plenty of player movement across the country.
How many new players we will see playing their new clubs this week remains to be seen, but all eyes will be on the 3pm game in Lae as new coach Bob Morris takes his first game in charge of the club against Tusbab Stallions. With official confirmation that the core of the Lae City side will leave with Gunemba, we may never see the likes of Raymond Gunemba, Nigel Dabinyaba and Ronald Warisan in a Lae City shirt again, and it could be a completely new-look Lae City side. With former Stallions captain Nigel Malagian having moved to Lae City late in the transfer window, Stallions will be hoping to put a downer on Gunemba’s swansong. Stallions did manage to tempt the league’s top scorer Stahl Gubag to stay at the club, but how will his head be after a move to one of the biggest clubs in the country fell through at the last minute? This match will certainly bring plenty of talking points.
In the 1pm kick-off in Lae, Morobe Wawens take on FC Kutubu. With both clubs struggling in the league, there is no news as to who has taken over the coaching job at Wawens after Bob Morris left to take over from Peter Gunemba, and with Kutubu strengthening their side with three players from Hekari United, this might be a match that the Highlands-based side could see themselves winning.
In a triple-header in Port Moresby, the 1pm kick-off will see FC Bougainville take on Gulf Komara. We’ve only heard that these teams have lost players during the transfer window, with Bougainville having lost Jonathan Allen and ‘keeper Andrew Baniau to Vitiaz, and Komara having surrendered center-back Carlos Onne to Hekari early on in the week, and Donovan Murray to Vitiaz late on. Both sides will therefore be itching to prove that they can still perform without these key players. Allen in particular is a big loss to Bougainville, with the 19-year-old having scored six goals for the club so far this season.
At 3pm, a strengthened Vitiaz United still take on Morobe United, with no news from the latter of any incomings or outgoings during the transfer window. Vitiaz have lost Russell Nirik due to personal issues, but have brought in Murray, Allen, and Baniau, as well as Peter Dabinyaba Jr and Mathew David from Lae City. They’re clearly looking to secure that second OFC Champions League spot in the wake of Lae’s troubles. With many of Vitiaz’ current players having played for Morobe United last season, it will be an interesting clash with both sides will be desperate to win.
In the late 5pm kick-off, Star Mountain will take on Hekari United. Star Mountain have appointed Percy Mataio as their new head coach, and have also strengthened their side, but Hekari will remain favourites for this clash, after confirming the signings of Gregory Togubai, Carlos Onne and Wira Wama early on in the week.
It’s sure to be a weekend to remember!