By ELIZABETH VUVU
INTERNATIONAL rugby league development manager Tas Baitieri and two Australian representatives visited East New Britain last week to gauge stakeholders’ views on how best to develop rugby league in the province.
The other two were Martin Roberts from the Australian Sports Commission and Anthony McGee from AusAID.
An open forum was held at Ralum Country Club in Kokopo last Friday involving league presidents, secretaries, referees, club presidents, education and community development division officers to discuss issues they felt that needed support in ENB.
“We are here to gather information and get stakeholders input with regard to the codes development in the region and how AusAID can best facilitate development of the game,” Baitieri said.
McGee said the funding proposed by Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd to Sir Michael Somare during the Pacific Islands Forum last year would be available on a four year term after a plan is set up.
But before that eventuates, the team is visiting the country and selected provinces to find out the issues that need to be addressed to enable the code to grow.
One important area that the funding programme would look into is developing grassroots rugby league in the rural areas.
Meanwhile, Baitieri said the main objective of the visit was to look at venues to host the Prime Minister’s 13 match played in Port Moresby for the past five years.
Baitieri said the initiative by the Australian government and prime ministers had always extended their name and branding to national teams in Australia like the PM’s Kumuls side.
“Rabaul is an area we are investigating to see if we can come here with the team but we need to look at the infrastructure, hotel and medical support to actually see if we can have the game here,” he added.
On inspecting the Kalabond oval at Takubar, Baitieri said the surface was brilliant and “soft under the foot” compared to Port Moresby’s hard surface and the oval was a standard size.
However, it did not have the capacity to cater for a large crowd.
He said Port Moresby had a capacity enough to cater for more than 12,000 people.
“We would love to get more people in here and there must be maximum impact when we bring players in and that is why we intend to meet with Governor Leo Dion to make our intentions known, thus making this visit worthwhile,” he added.
Baitieri said there was much planning and they were dealing with NRL players who had high expectations.
The players wanted to come to East New Britain but the province should have infrastructure support in place.
“Benefits to the local community needed to be provided, capacity factors need to be increased and discussions taking place now will determine whether we come here or go to other centres,” he said.