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The 2023 Digicel ExxonMobil Cup season will kick off this Sunday, featuring new franchise Sepik Pride in their debut match against Gulf Isou at the Santos National Football Stadium.

In the first game of a double-header, the Port Moresby Vipers will take on the Mt Hagen Eagles, while the Mendi Muruks will go up against the Kimbe Cutters and the Lae Tigers will host the Central Dabaris at the Lae Rugby League Ground in another double-header for round one.

Meanwhile, the Goroka Lahanis will play against the defending premiers Hela Wigmen at the National Sports Institute in the Eastern Highlands capital, and the Rabaul Gurias will visit the Enga Mioks at Aipus Oval in Wabag, Enga. The EMK Construction-sponsored Sepik Pride’s captain, Wartovo Puara, stated that his team needs to start the season strongly and is confident that they can achieve a positive result, with coach Joe Bruno counting on Watson Boas, Joe Frank, Francis Kembis, and Francis Takai to contribute significantly.

Isou performed impressively in a trial match against the experienced Vipers last week, with former Hunters playmaker Justin Yoka managing the game while Emmanuel Parua and Adam Korave led a determined pack. In contrast, the Vipers’ sponsors are demanding results after a disappointing finish last season. With the likes of Stanton Albert, Joel Torombe, Philemon Kimisive, Ham Tina, Abel Rami, and Fedro Gene, they have an experienced side that will lay the foundation for five-eighth Milex Winis and centre Edene Gebbie to ignite the backline. The Eagles will also benefit from former Hunter Joe Joshua’s presence at fullback, while captain Joshua Nani and Bradley Angra will strengthen the rugged pack.