The PNG Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) has announced its ambitions to join the NRL as the competition’s 18th team in the next broadcast cycle.
The decision follows the NRL’s proposal for an 18-team competition at some point in the future, preferably in the 2027 season. But based on work to date, PNG aims to be a strong prospective candidate by 2025 and secure a spot in the league by 2030.
PNG Rugby League Chairman, Sandis Tsaka, said: “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.”
The proposition was widely accepted by the stakeholders and sponsors because Rugby League is the national sport of PNG and currently the Kumuls are ranked fifth in the world.
Other teams within Australia and New Zealand have also put their hands up for that 18th spot but Papua New Guinea is confident that they will meet the selection criteria.
“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,” added Tsaka.
Both the men and women teams have done exceptionally well in recent times and players have managed to secure lucrative contracts with overseas clubs. Therefore, a business model of this nature would greatly benefit rugby league players from PNG as time progresses.
Talks of a joint venture with fellow Pacific rugby league enthusiasts Samoa, Tonga and Fiji is also an option that PNG is willing to take. For now PNG is focused on utilising its resources to fund its pathway team (Hunters), currently playing in the Queensland Cup competition, to strengthen its foundation and the country’s NRL birth.