After signing a new sports partnership agreement on rugby league with the Australia, James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea is hoping the island nation will have a side competing in the NRL by 2025.
The PNG Hunters are set to compete in the Queensland Cup this year after arriving in the Sunshine State ahead of a nine-month spell for the upcoming season.
The arrival of the Hunters is first step for PNG to land an NRL side, a goal Marape is optimistic of.
“We are preparing for possibility of PNG owning a team in the NRL in 2025,” Prime Minister Marape told local media.
“On the back of SP PNG Hunters leaving for a long-term residential stay in Australia, we are happy to sign a partnership in the area of sports, especially rugby league, between our two nations and stakeholders in sports.
Papua New Guinea World Nines captain James Segeyaro hopes the October 18 tournament will help emerging rugby league nations like PNG unearth the next generation of superstars.
— NRL (@NRL) September 17, 2019
“The partnership is reaching another level where we are fielding a sports team, our own PNG SP Hunters rugby league team, to be based in Australia for up to nine months for the 2021 Queensland Cup season."
The agreement is also seen as a stepping stone that could see more NRL clubs attracted to local talent coming out of PNG.
“That is why the Hunters are becoming an entity of their own and turning into a professional outfit,” Marape said.
“With the Hunters relocating to Australia using their new visa, it will be also easy for them to stay in Australia and play if they secure an NRL contract.
“We can produce more Hunters and send them to Australia.
“We are now sending a team to reside and participate in their Queensland Cup competition and that is a pathway for Papua New Guineans who want to excel in the fields of sports.
“Australia is the closest market for us to export our sportsmen and sportswomen, as well as in other areas of work and life beyond high school and rugby league."
Melbourne centre Justin Olam is a notable Papua New Guinea international in the NRL after plying his trade with the Hunters before heading to Australia.
From PNG to the purple jersey 🇵🇬
— Melbourne Storm 🏆 (@storm) May 6, 2018
The 27-year-old made his debut with the Storm in 2018 and has since played 38 matches in purple, including last year's grand final victory over Penrith.
Expansion has been a topical discussion in the past 12 months, with the league likely to hand a 17th license to a Queensland side, who would join the competition in 2023.