PORT MORESBY, PAPUA NEW GUINEA - NOVEMBER 05: Papua New Guinean fans show their support during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between Papua New Guinea Kumuls and Ireland on November 5, 2017 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Already widely publicised, discussions are underway regarding Papua New Guinea's bid to join the NRL competition as the 18th team, and the rumblings are that they are in the box seat.

While Pat Conroy, Minister for International Development and the Pacific has acknowledged encouraging ongoing talks with PNG officials, it's crucial to note that the Australian Government has not officially thrown its support behind the bid, despite positive affirmations from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Conroy sees a collaborative opportunity that could extend beyond the NRL, benefiting both the PNG and Australian governments.

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Prime Minister Albanese, reportedly supportive of a substantial $60 million package over ten years, has not yet officially committed to such a proposal or presented it to parliament. The government's stance reflects a cautious optimism, considering the potential impact and benefits of such a partnership.

Despite the absence of an official commitment from Australia, Papua New Guinea's Deputy Prime Minister, John Rosso, appears confident about PNG's NRL aspirations. Rosso has essentially characterised it as a 'done deal,' citing Australia's supposed promise to support their bid.

Australia has 'promised' to help advance our aspiration to have a National Rugby League team in Australia,” Rosso stated optimistically, via News Corp. 

“Papuneans are mad about rugby league, and having a Papunean team in the NRL would be really good, and Australia is supporting and partnering with us to realise those aspirations.”

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As discussions continue, the prospect of a PNG team in the NRL remains uncertain. The league's potential expansion and the inclusion of a PNG team would not only diversify the competition but also provide a platform for players from Australia and other Pacific nations to represent the PNG Kumuls team.

The outcome of these talks could potentially reshape the NRL's future, fostering increased diversity and opportunities for players across the Pacific region.

However, until official support from the Australian Government is confirmed, the fate of PNG's NRL aspirations remains in limbo.