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Hela Wigmen upset Minor premiers Tigers to book historical grand final showdown in the PNG Digicel Cup

NOBODY ever considered the Hela Wigmen among the contenders for this year’s Digicel Cup competition.
The obvious choices were early favourites the Lae Tigers, reigning champs Port Moresby Vipers, the Agmark Gurias and the Enga Mioks, even before considering the Wigmen.
Their surprise 22-20 semi-final win over the Tigers on Sunday has surprised people.
The challenge is even greater now that the PNG National Rugby League yesterday gave the green light for the grand final to be played at the Gurias home ground of the Kalabond Stadium on Sunday.
PNGNRL general manager Hubert Warupi confirmed the Kalabond Stadium was the premier playing venue in the country, where secutiry was easier to manage.
The Kalabond, aka ‘the grave-yard’ for visiting teams, has been a thorn in the side of the Wigmen as they have come away disappointed after losing 34-14.
That has only added fuel to the fire that has been building among Wigmen stand-in coaches Andiki Andrew and Sova Milfred, who have followed the blueprint that was established by head coach Stanley Hondina, who is out of the country.
The Gurias had a new coach in  mid season, with George Tobata taking the reins with the help of Steven Nightingale following the exit of Oscar Tonga.
Both teams have worked hard to reach this far and will not disappoint followers of the premier competition in the country with an expected fiery end to the 2014 season.
The Kemele Construction/HGDC-sponsored Wigmen are regarded as underdogs.
Wigmen chairman Andy Hetra said if someone had asked him if they would be contenders in January after finishing sixth last season, he would have laughed it off as a joke.
“This was no way our goal this season; we were aiming to go at least one better, with a steady progression to becoming real contenders by 2016 or 2017,” Hetra said.
He said they wanted to mirror the exploits of the Gurias development programme, with a host of 19- and 20-year-olds being hardened over a three-year period.
“Because we needed to be competitive and have the players look up to as role models we did some shopping to secure the services of former national representative players in Joseph Omai, George Moni, Charlie Wabo and Felix Tangue to provide that stewardship,” he said.
“The boys have dug deep and the momentum has shifted and the confidence in the camp is good but we still carry the underdogs tag into the final.”
On their success in only the club’s  second year, Hetra said there was no big secret; it all came down to having the players abide to a strict code of conduct on and off the field.
“They have gone through the strict regime because this is an important aspect of the club culture going forward.”
ONE PNG / The National

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