As Peter V'Landys expresses his desire to continue the NRL's expansion with an 18th team sooner rather than later, supporters of a Papua New Guinea-based club believe a strong showing at the 2022 World Cup could help strengthen their bid for the next available place in the competition.
The matter has already been talked over politically, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NRL chief Andrew Abdo discussing the issue.
But there are other supporting factors as well, including Telstra's recent acquisition of PNG's key communications company Digicel, NRL referee Ben Cummins officiating the domestic league's grand final and the decision of the Australian government to invest $2.2 million into PNG's elite pathways.
Former Bulldogs chief Andrew Hill is leading the campaign for a PNG team to enter the NRL in 2028, but says the process has been a ‘slow burn'.
“It's about a long-term approach, investing in coaching and pathways for both the men's and women's game,” Hill said, per AAP.
“There are more Justin Olams out there, we just need to give them the opportunity at 15 or 16 to get the benefits Australian players enjoy.”
With the Kumuls fielding their strongest-ever team at a World Cup, Hill's team believes that a strong showing at the tournament could directly help the nation's bid for an NRL team.
“One step forward (by getting to the semi-finals) could definitely (help) push towards a PNG NRL side,” Hill said.
“All the boys from the (Qld-based) Hunters and the domestic competition that are with us at the moment are really good players.
“I feel like if they're put on centre stage, they'll perform. It's a pretty interesting concept and hopefully it goes ahead.”