By Jeremy Mogi – EMTVSport, Port Moresby
Debutants Erema FC and PKA Rapatona will open the 2015/16 season of the Telikom National Soccer League, which has now been confirmed to kick off on November 21.
In one of the matches of the opening round, at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium in Lae, youth development side Besta FC will meet last season’s grand finalists Madang.
Besta FC remain one of the few teams from last season, being of of very few to register a win against powerhouses Hekari, a feat that may be difficult to repeat since Besta have since lost a number of players to other clubs. And in an ironic twist, the man behind much of Besta’s previous success, Bob Morris, will now be at the helm of Madang.
Madang won’t have the luxury of midfielder Alwin Komolong, who is over in the US, but the bulk of their grand final squad remain.
Admiralty will have filtered a number of the championship Manus side into their camp. Head coach Peter Sakaes has been successful in gelling a young side, and appear unfazed heading into round one.
Goroka Gohisha is the first team to be based in the Highlands region. A handful of players would have been taken from the regional championships from October, with the National Sport Institute to host their matches.
The Highlands however is not a footballing stronghold, but their inclusion should be enough to boost the profile of the NSL in the region. Gigira Laitepo are back in after a hiatus of a few years and meet up with Hekari in their opening encounter, although the Reds look strong at the moment.
Hekari have recruited well for this season, and will be looking to continue their standard of play. To date, they have never lost an opening match up.
Rapatona have youth, and Erema FC experience which shows the transitioning styles and philosophy between clubs in the NSL.
FC Port Moresby, who finished fourth last season, will face PS Huawei United. Port Moresby has impressed, dominating their opposition although Gigira Laitepo did place them under huge pressure over the weekend. It will be difficult to predict the outcomes after the opening rounds, especially based on the previous results from last season, since the only match between existing clubs from last season is that of Besta and Madang.
There is a problem with the draws for the NSL though, Goroka Gohisa host four matches, and those are against Welgris and Lae City, which means both sides will have played against the same team in the same home ground twice in the same season.
Whether that will be an advantage for Goroka remains to be seen however.