Rugby League BY SIMON KESLEP Papua New Guinea semi professional rugby league Digicel Cup reigning back-to-back champions Lae Snax Tigers are poised for their third Melanesian Club Championship title. The 2020 Pherrus sponsored Melanesian Cup will be held on Saturday (February 29) at the Churchill Park, Lautoka, Fiji. Tigers will take on Fiji’s 2019 Vodafone Cup Challenge winners Ravoravo Rabbitohs at 4pm. The curtain raiser earlier at 2pm will be between Fiji Silktails and last season’s Digicel Cup grand final runners-up Kroton Hela Wigmen at 2pm. Lae Snax Tigers club patron Ian Chow yesterday told the Post-Courier that the Tigers will be playing a combined Fiji team. “Fiji wants the Cup badly and have put all their best players in their squad,” said Chow. He said the Tigers will likely be without four of their players currently in the SP PNG Hunters team and preparing for the Queensland Rugby League Intrust Super Cup match against the Central Queensland Capras this Saturday. “Nevertheless I am confident Coach Stanley Tepend will still get the Snax Tigers Up to task to win,” said Chow. Snax Lae Tigers coach Stanley Tepend said in an email last night that training has been going smoothly so far without any major hiccups. “We started off with a larger group with bulk fitness and main core strength in the first month but since we have cut the squad down and training has changed from longer to shorter stuff…our focus for Melo Cup only started last week,” he said. “We have focused more on a specific squad picked for that training separately then the core group who continue to focus on areas for 2020 Digicel Cup.” Tepend made specific reference of John Andy, Noel Joel and Enoch Sine as the players who will have to step up in Fiji. They will be going there for the second time for the event. He said Andy will lead the side as captain. Other players to step up include Roy Kela, Tiger Emeri, Mark Tony, Sonny Wabo and Ishmael Balkawa. “We confident we have trained hard and well enough to trust our hard work to make sure we win. We are not using this trip as a holiday; most of our main group have played together for a long time, done a few pre-season competitions together which is the hardest part leading into any season so they know what is expected of them and what we want to achieve not only in this game but also when we come back,” he said. “This trip will also be a good bonding trip for us and a first good trial for us. The Fiji teams are generally bigger and taller than us. I suspect they will be a lot better than previous years because they are getting smarter and now have a team in the Ron Massey Cup, the game has gone to another level over there. “Our aim would be to start strong and complete most sets. Make them work hard for every possession, metres and points. Compete in all parts of the game because they are bigger we hope to tire them down by doing that.” The team leaves Lae for Port Moresby next Tuesday and heads for Nadi, Fiji, the following day. The hosts (Rabbitohs) have the likes of former Tigers forwards enforcer and recruit Tikiko Noke who will be joined by Waisea Nasekai, Timoci Namotokula, Simon Wise, Maika Serulevu and Iliame Susu currently making headlines to feature for the Ron Massey Cup team. Tigers retained the title in 2018 defeating two-time campaigners Nadi Aviators 38-22 at the Oil Search National Football Stadium in Port Moresby and back in 2017 – a 40-4 flogging also against the Aviators at the Lawaga Park, Sigatoka, Fiji. The inaugural Cup winner was Agmark Rabaul Gurias back in 2015 defeating Sabeto Roosters 40-2 at Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby.