Papua New Guinea has made a bid to join the NRL as the competition’s 18th team.
PNG Rugby Football League and the government are rallying together in this campaign.
The campaign was officially launched in Port Moresby on Wednesday night.
“Sport is part of the fabric of Papua New Guinea,” said the Minister for Sports, Wesley Raminai, at the launch of the campaign.
“Our PNG NRL bid team is ready. The time to start the journey is now. We can’t wait any longer.”
“We are confident — we are a country of 10 million people, with rugby league played all over the country,” PNGRFL chairman Sandis Tsaka said.
Rugby league is a religion in PNG and it is the only country in the world where it is the national sport. The State of Origin is one of the biggest annual sporting events for PNG. There have been clashes among supporters during the Origin games.
In 2021, NRL announced that Queensland based team, Dolphins, will join the NRL in 2023. This will take the tally of teams to 17 and one team will have a bye every weekend. There is debate about allowing another team in.
PNG will be coming up against contenders from Brisbane, Perth and New Zealand in its attempt to secure the spot in the league.
This is not the first time PNG will be making such a bid. A similar bid was made in 2009 but it was unsuccessful.
“We’ve learned from the experiences of the 2010 bid,” Mr Tsaka said.
“The work that the government has done in infrastructure and the work that the rugby league family has done to invest in our domestic competitions — we are pretty confident that we can sustain an NRL licence.”
The PNG government is committing 10 million kina (AU$3.92 million) a year for three years to assist with the bid.
Mr Raminai has given assurance that the campaign will be transparent and accountable.
PNG already has a team which plays in the Queensland league, the SP Hunters. The Hunters are based in Queensland for most of the season.
The national side PNG Kumuls are ranked fifth in the world. PNG players now feature for top NRL and NRWL clubs.
The PNGRFL has stated that it would need 30milllion kina (AU$11.75m) to start off the team.
The Australian Rugby League Commission will have the final say on who gets the nod.