By ISAAC LIRI
THE future for rugby league in Papua New Guinea looks bright with the possibility of the country having a team in the Australia’s National Rugby League within six years, says Australian Rugby League chairman John Grant.
Grant, who has a lot of influence on the decision-making process in the the NRL, was in the country yesterday to watch the Kumuls beat a gallant Ireland 14-6 in their Pool C clash at the Oil Search National Football Stadium.
The former Australian Kangaroo representative spoke positively on the path taken by the PNG Rugby Football League in reference to the success of the SP PNG Hunters in claiming their maiden Queensland Cup premiership and the improvement of the PNG Kumuls at international level.
“For PNG to get to the standard where Australia is, it should be taken one step at a time,” Grant said.
“You know nothing changes overnight and it’s always been an attitude we’ve taken from the Australian Rugby League Commission’s point of view.
“If you look at what the Hunters have been able to achieve in terms of measuring up to that level of football over the four years that they’ve been in that competition, then that’s the track, so that’s the only way that you can improve.
“So the more competition that PNG players can get through from the Intrust Super Cup to the international competition, over the years they will become more competitive and that’s the track where PNG is on and full credit to PNG Rugby Football League and the Hunters for taking PNG down that track, it’s great to see,” he said.
“I think there is a lot of people that would want a team in the NRL and we’ve been really careful about that and we made it very clear that we see expansion of the game occurring at the Intrust Super Cup level premiership level.
“It’s difficult to deny that at some time in the future given the progression of PNGRFL, they couldn’t put a team that will be competitive in the NRL and then it’ll come down to financial backing for all the other things that will occur.
“I can tell you that there’ll be nothing in the next five years but we’ll see what happens after that.
“It’s a bit early to start calling out criteria but all you have to do is take a look at some of the NRL football clubs and see what they have behind them and recognise that almost all of them have been there for a very long time.
“It takes time and it takes effort by the country in this case to support their team and it takes effort in terms of the development of the players.
“For PNG to be able to get on that stage and be competitive, the route to competitiveness is to work their way through the Intrust Super Cup and then play more international games.
“One of the things the international federation has on its agenda is to in fact stage more internationals and get all of our players playing internationals.
“There are players coming through the NRL competition or the Super League competition in the northern hemisphere. We know that there are a number of PNG players playing in the NRL now and the better more play in that competition as individuals, the better they are for their national teams.
“It’s just a formula of increasing the capability of individual players by rolling them through the top competitions and by playing in competitions internationally.”
By ISAAC LIRI