Saturday, June 30, 2018

Bold bid for NSW Labor Party to back PNG's entry into the NRL

by Adrian Proszenko,
June 30, 2018

A motion tabled at the NSW Labor Party annual conference on Sunday could be the key to the introduction of a Papua New Guinean team entering the NRL in the future.

The motion, proposed by Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne and seconded by Member for Kingsford Smith, Matt Thistlethwaite, calls for a future Federal Labor Government to support PNG’s NRL bid as a foreign policy initiative.

Triumph: Justin Olam celebrates his try for the Kumuls against Fiji.Photo: AAP

PNG is the only country in the world that can claim rugby league as its national sport and recent results have proven the nation has considerable talent in its ranks. The Kumuls, fresh from their quarter-final appearance in last year’s World Cup, upset Fiji in last weekend’s Pacific Test.

The PNG Hunters are also the defending champions in Queensland’s Intrust Super Premiership competition after beating the Sunshine Coast Falcon’s in last year’s grand final. biggest obstacle in the way of NRL inclusion would be raising the funds required to bankroll the project. However, Sunday’s proposal could see an elected Labor Government support a PNG NRL bid to build economic, cultural and social ties between the nations.

"Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbour and the only nation on earth to have rugby league as their national sport. In fact, rugby league is like a religion for New Guineans," Byrne said.

"Establishing a PNG team in the NRL would transform the relationship between our two nations and create permanent cultural and social connections between our peoples.

PNG is the only country in the world to count rugby league as its national sport.

"PNG is a former Australian colony, with almost double the population of New Zealand, but sadly we haven't developed the same familial relationship with New Guineans that we have with our cousins across the ditch.

“Rugby league can be the tool we use to build those bonds of affection. There is a huge opportunity to use rugby league to build a much closer and meaningful relationship between the people of PNG and Australia.”

Byrne has liaised with the NRL about the motion, while ARLC chairman Peter Beattie is on record as saying the game “must expand or die”.

The motion reads, in part: “Collaborate with the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Australian Rugby League Commission and Papua New Guinea Rugby League (PNGRL) to investigate the establishment a PNG team in the National Rugby League (NRL) competition. This should be undertaken as a foreign policy initiative as well as a sports initiative aimed at building cultural and economic links between the two nations.”
The Prime Minister's XIII team training in Port Moresby ahead of their annual clash with PNG.

The motion also calls for initiatives to continue to strengthen the financial sustainability of the PNGRL, as well as a continuation of programs that address social challenges such as domestic violence.

“With the PNG Hunters having won the premiership in the Queensland Cup last year, stepping up to first grade is a natural progression,” Byrne said. “In order to make this leap the PNG rugby League will need administrative and financial assistance and the Australian Government should help them to stand on their own two feet. No single measure would do more for Papua New Guinean national identity than bringing the Hunter's into the NRL.”

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