Papua New Guinea has launched a bid to join the NRL as the rugby league competition’s 18th team and is being backed by the country’s prime minister.
As the NRL awaits the introduction of the Queensland-based Dolphins as the 17th team next year, Papua New Guinea has put its hand up for the licence of the 18th club.
The PNG government, along with local governing body PNG Rugby Football League and the Sports Foundation, officially launched a campaign to enter a team at an event in Port Moresby on Wednesday night.
PNG says it is working to be able “to demonstrate strong credentials as a prospective participant by 2025”, with the aim to join the league by 2030.
“The bid will celebrate and showcase PNG’s passion for the game, sporting talent and events hosting capability”, it says.
PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape and his cabinet is backing the bid with the Sports Minister on hand at the launch.
“Sport is part of the fabric of Papua New Guinea,” the minister Wesley Raminai said.
PNG is the only country in the world where rugby league is the national sport.
The country’s best club side The Hunters competes in a league in Queensland and its national side, The Kumuls, is currently ranked fifth in the world.
The NRL had previously discussed a second team in New Zealand along with the Warriors, however PNG believed they would be ready to go with a team from 2025. Other options include a team in Perth or on NSW’s Central Coast.
The PNG bid was also open to becoming the team of the Pacific, linking with Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. .
“The investment and work we’ve done over the last 12 years with our infrastructure, governance and financial capacity and competitiveness of the sport in the country has put us in a good position,” PNG Rugby League chairman Sandis Tsaka said.
“Investment in the domestic game in terms of football structures from our juniors to elite pathways program has led to the success we’re having with the Hunters.
“Our men’s and women’s international teams are becoming competitive. Investment we’ve done across the game in terms of infrastructure has us in good stead to put in a good bid.
“We know there are other teams within Australia and New Zealand that have put their hand up. It will be a competitive process. For us it’s about getting our work done, so we can put in a bid that can compete and be selected to be the 18th team in the NRL. We are confident we can do that.”