Though the Dolphins are yet to take the field, interest in the NRL’s 18th franchise licence has piqued in recent days thanks to the Prime Minister’s support for a Pacific Island team to enter the competition.
Now The Sun-Herald reports that an initiative to introduce a Pasifika team similar to that of Super Rugby is being considered by a prospective franchise led by Papua New Guinea.
Former Bulldogs and Rugby League World Cup boss Andrew Hill is leading the PNG campaign and has advised there are several models under consideration.
“There are three options – a PNG-outright team, a partnership model and a pacific model,” Hill told the Sun-Herald.
“The PNG Government is genuine about getting an NRL licence based in PNG, whatever option is being considered.”
“A Pacific team is gathering support and if there’s an opportunity to lead that bid, we will absolutely consider that as a viable option.
“Obviously PNG would be leading those discussions. The goal of the PNG government is to get more content in PNG and a licence based here.”
Hill’s admission comes as the NRL seeks $60 million in Federal Government funding to help grow the sport in the region.
The latest revelation also comes just days after Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hosted an event for regional leaders that included a viewing party of the State of Origin decider at the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji.
The event was attended by PNG PM James Marape, who helped provide Albanese with an understanding of the significance of rugby league to the region.
Following the event, Albanese suggested the region was worthy of hosting a State of Origin match in the future.
“I’ve spoken to Peter V’Landys and Andrew Abdo about the Pacific’s engagement with rugby league,” the Prime Minister asserted.
“It would be a good thing if we gave consideration to getting a Pacific team (into the competition), a team with connections to PNG, Tonga, Samoa.”
Despite political instability in the region, the team behind the PNG bid is free from political affiliation, such is the overwhelming desire for a team in the region regardless of election results.
“The PNG Government is very genuine in getting an NRL licence based in PNG, whatever option is being considered,” Hill advised.
Given players of Pasifika heritage make up nearly 45 per cent of the NRL’s ranks and a number of players have recently opted to represent their nations of heritage on the international stage in a World Cup year, supporting such a move is clearly in the best interests of both the league and the region.
I suspect a PNG team would have less difficulty than the Dolphins are having in recruiting players, given that many would see it as a de-facto national team.
If such a team is to be set up then the NRL should give some consideration to addressing a problem that (I believe) the Warriors have faced over the years. That is the excessive travelling time. A better solution, I think, would be for road trips – play four matches at home, then four away (eg four Sydney clubs – staying in Sydney for the month), then four at home etc.
The Warrior could and should ask for the same treatment.
Comments are closed.