By Richard Ewart of ABC
|Photo: Veteran rugby league forward Petero Civoniceva was among the Australian Legends who took part in the Port Moresby clash (Dean Lewins: AAP, file photo)|
Papua New Guinea's bid for a place in Australia's National Rugby League competition is gathering momentum, with a number of big names in the sport backing PNG's case following the Legends match at the weekend.A team of former Kumul greats defeated an all-star Australian line up in the Port Moresby clash on Sunday.
The NRL recently said it would not be looking at any expansion of the competition until at least the end of 2014, instead looking to cement the strength and popularity of the current competition.
Brad Tassell, chief executive of the PNG NRL bid team, says several of the Australian players are keen to press Papua New Guinea's case for a place in the Queensland Cup in two years' time.
"It was a real eye-opener for a lot of those guys, as to not only the passion for NRL up here, but what the PNG NRL bid are doing to develop the game up here," he said.
"Guys such as Petero Civoniceva, who's taking up a role with the NRL...is a huge supporter.
"Scott Sattler, as well, it was his first time up here, and he was blown away by the passion and the support - and also by the friendliness and the welcoming attitude that the Papua New Guineans had towards him and the Australians.
"So those sorts of key guys are great to have as ambassadors for our cause."
Mr Tassel says he is confident a PNG side will be playing in the Queensland Cup in 2014, which would be major step on the road to the ultimate goal.
"We did have a full submission that was put forward to the QRL, and that included strong financial support, strong government support and a definite plan for how we wanted to manage entry of a PNG team into the Queensland Cup competition," he said.
"It was received really well, and we'll be having further follow-up discussions with the QRL over the next few months and really pushing and starting to get into place our plans to enter a team in 2014."
Mr Tassel says there's also been a positive response from some NRL clubs in the Queensland and the Australian competition to playing more games in front of a Papua New Guinean crowd.
He says South Sydney and the Broncos have had some discussions about sending teams for pre-season matches against a PNG side.
"Everyone believes that we can have a team from PNG in the future, but what we need to do is make sure that we have the right pathway to put ourselves in a position to be able to bid for a team in the future," he said.