By BURI GABI
MINISTER for Education James Marape has lifted the ban on body contact sports in the PNG school system after announcing yesterday at Parliament House the introduction of the PNG schoolboys’ rugby league programme in partnership with PNGNRL Bid and insurance company INSPAC PNG Ltd.
INSPAC PNG Ltd has come onboard as a sponsor to provide full medical cover for students that participate in the PNG schoolboys’ rugby league competition under a long-term sponsorship deal with the PNGNRL Bid and the Department of Education (DOE).
However, details of the extent of the coverage in terms of aspects of player injuries, and long term treatment, and how much the insurance is valued at would be made known soon.
This follows a decision by the Education Ministry to allow the PNGNRL Bid to introduce rugby league development competition across all schools in PNG.
Rugby league has not been part of the school curriculum since PNG gained Independence.
The commitment of INSPAC PNG Ltd will enable the PNGNRL Bid and the DOE to create a rugby league development programme to strengthen the junior player base and officiating skills.
The PNG All Schools Rugby League Programme will be rolled out across the nation, with a pilot programme commencing this year. The programme will initially focus on Under 16 and 14 playing in a rugby league carnival.
Marape officially announced the lifting of the ban in the presence of PNGNRL Bid directors, representatives from sponsors, Minister for Sports and chairman of the bid Philemon Embel and NCD Governor Powes Parkop.
Marape put a challenge to respective school boards throughout the country to support the initiative. He said schools could now participate in a formally sanctioned schoolboy rugby league sports programme which would lay the foundation for the country’s next generation of bemobile Cup players and Kumuls.
Marape also called on the PNGNRL Bid team to coordinate with schools in Australia to take students on sports scholarship as part of PNG All schools rugby league programme.
“All sports, and in particular rugby league, has the ability to provide opportunities for our young to learn a range of useful life skills such as discipline, respect, leadership, teamwork and also encourages Papua New Guineans from an early age to be fit and health conscious as well as providing a pathway for their future.”
This rugby league initiative could also blaze a trail for other football codes such as rugby union and Aussie rules to seek formal schoolboy competitions of their own.
Minister Marape thanked the Bid for putting into place a rugby league development programme in schools, and all the sponsors for their support, particularly INSPAC for providing full insurance and medical cover for all participating students and officials.
Paul Broughton, strategic advisor to the Bid and chairman of NRL team the Gold Coast Titans was an advocate of the development programme, “There are many intrinsic values that can be learned on the playing field of rugby league that cannot be taught in the classrooms. Team and self discipline, being part of a group with a common goal, respect for authority and learning that winning or losing is a shared responsibility because you win and lose as a team.”
Meanwhile the PNGNRL Bid surprisingly chose to remain mum on the issue of three of its former board directors who withdrew from the team last month citing problems with the Bid’s management. Despite this latest setback it appears the PNGNRL Bid team has elected to continue in earnest its push for an NRL license.