Photo: PNG Rugby League fans in Port Moresby during the Rugby League World Cup in 2017.
Papua New Guinea will host an NRL pre-season trial match between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in February next year.
It will be the first time the NRL has hosted a trial match in Port Moresby and is part of a program supported by the Australian Government which will see trial matches played in Pacific nations in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Playing squads will arrive in Papua New Guinea a number of days prior to the match on February 22 and will participate in NRL and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) programs targeted towards promoting social inclusion, participation, equality and health and wellbeing.
The matches have been made possible because of the Australian Government’s commitment to the Australia-Pacific Sports Linkages Program.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said the landmark match highlighted the popularity of rugby league in the pacific and thanked the Federal Government for their ongoing partnership to grow the game in developing nations.
“This is an exciting and valuable step for the game. We know so many of our players were born in Pacific nations and are idolised in nations like Papua New Guinea who have a genuine passion for rugby league,’’ he said.
“We thank the Federal Government for their ongoing partnership. It was remarkable to see both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister attend the PM’s XIII match in Fiji earlier this month.
“Rugby league brings communities together and with the federal government there is so much we can do to enhance these regions.”
Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Bruce Davis said both nations would benefit from the match.
“There is no doubting the importance of rugby league to the close ties that PNG and Australia enjoy. It is a touchpoint that brings our people and our institutions together in ways that we both benefit from,’’ he said.
Bulldogs Chief Executive Andrew Hill was delighted that the Bulldogs were taking part in such a ground-breaking event.
“To have been invited to take part in this match and help promote the sport in this important part of the world is fantastic news for our club,’’ he said.
“To have the opportunity to help grow the game in this part of the world is both rewarding and important. Our core club values of family and inclusiveness are acknowledged as major elements to help grow the game and the value that Rugby League can play in PNG.”
Sharks Chief Executive Richard Munro said his club was excited to be participating in the match.
“This is an important, ground-breaking moment for the game and fitting that our club is taking part,’’ he said.
“We have supported and continue to support the Kokoda Track Foundation, have invested much time and resources into PNG and our Pacifica strategy and are looking forward to furthering our relationship with the region by playing in this trial match.
“It will be a rewarding and valuable week for our club and for the people of PNG and our players are excited to have the opportunity to work with the local communities and to help grow the game.”