After recently meeting with the NRL to discuss engagement with our Pacific Island neighbours, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has urged the league to consider taking State of Origin to the region in the near future.
The calls grew louder after a state dinner held by Albanese during a Pacific Island Forum in Fiji, which also included a viewing of Wednesday’s decider.
During the game, the Prime Minister sat next to Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape, who further detailed the region’s love for rugby league and its showpiece event.
“(Marape) said it’s the one time in PNG that everything stops throughout the entire country,” Albanese told AAP.
“They’re very passionate, and it would be a great thing for Origin to occur (in the region).”
The Prime Minister’s suggestion comes as calls intensify for a Papuan team to be granted the 18th NRL licence. The PNG Hunters have been a mainstay in Queensland’s Hostplus Cup since the 2014 season, winning a premiership in 2017.
The NSWRL has also expanded into Pacific territories, with the Kaiviti Silktails competing in the third-tier Ron Massey Cup. Though they were originally intended to play home games in Fiji, the onset of the global pandemic has kept them confined to Mascot for an extended period.
“I’ve had discussions with the NRL and have spoken to Peter V’Landys and Andrew Abdo about Pacific engagement with rugby league,” the Prime Minister said.
Though many upcoming Origin series’ have had their neutral venues decided in advance, a call is yet to be made about the 2025 series.
But if capacity and other issues prove too big to overcome, there’s also the option of an ‘exhibition’ match akin to the one-off game played in Los Angeles back in 1987.
The Prime Minister believes that increased engagement over rugby league could help strengthen ties in the region, which have been waning in the wake of the pandemic and other recent geo-political events.
“It’s the number one sport in the pacific.
“If you think about events (like this) in which you get Prime Ministers and Presidents of eight countries to come to an event with Australia, that’s a good thing.”