Clubs keen on PNG

Sports

CRONULLA and Canterbury Bulldogs will seriously consider playing a National Rugby League (NRL) premiership match in Papua New Guinea this season.
Another club contacted Sharks chairman Dino Mezzatesta hours after Saturday night’s trial against the Bulldogs about doing the same thing.
Players and officials from the Sharks and Bulldogs could not speak highly enough of the four days they spent in PNG for the match and word has quickly spread to other NRL clubs.
Mezzatesta said he had received several messages asking about the quality of the facilities and the overall experience, including one from a club which is keen to bring a match to the capacity 15,000-seat National Football Stadium.
It is believed the rival club would even be willing to be the home team with the Sharks as their opponents.
“It is up to us to grow the game and look for opportunities so it was wonderful that the Sharks, together with the Bulldogs, took this opportunity in PNG and experienced it first-hand,” Mezzatesta said.
“From here on, I think it is all about continuing to develop and grow that so we would definitely be at the table for any discussions about bringing another trial game here, or even a premiership match.
“I have already had a couple of calls and messages to ask how was it and if there is any interest in taking a game up there we should explore it further.
“That has come directly from another club within the NRL, and it is not the Bulldogs.”
The game was the first of a three-year agreement between the Federal Government and the NRL to stage one trial per season in the Pacific to support the PacificAus Sports initiative promote Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade programmes promoting social inclusion, participation, equality and health and wellbeing.
The Bulldogs were the first club to put their hand up as chief executive Andrew Hill has a long association with PNG through his role in charge of the 2017 World Cup, which featured three matches in Port Moresby.
Hill convinced coach Dean Pay and the players it would be a worthwhile exercise and the Sharks agreed to join them in the pioneering exercise after no other club expressed an interest in playing in PNG.
With the facilities being better than some NRL clubs have and the experience exceeding the expectations of players and coaches from both clubs, Hill believes the only obstacle to PNG hosting a Telstra Premiership match would be broadcast costs for Nine or Fox Sports.
“What we were able to achieve in the World Cup was enormous for both the game and the country, and we saw the passion for a trial game,” Hill said.
“It would be something to be seen to be believed if we could get a premiership game there.
“Unfortunately, the logistical challenges will take some time to overcome, primarily around the broadcast considerations, but for most other categories there is no reason why they couldn’t host a premiership game and we saw it in the World Cup.”
With PNG boasting a population of eight million and being the only country in which rugby league is the national sport, a Telstra Premiership match would be all but guaranteed to sell out.
Completed just before the World Cup, the Oil Search National Football Stadium has better facilities than any of the suburban grounds Sydney clubs call home, with air-conditioned dressing rooms and 15,000 seats close to the sidelines.
The accommodation was world class for both teams and security was not an issue as police escorts were provided any time they went anywhere, mainly to protect passionate fans from running in front of the bus.
As the players discovered from the moment they landed and during visits to schools, hospitals or any time they went anywhere, Papua New Guineans don’t just love rugby league, they love it.
When players asked how he had got there, Samson told them he had walked.
Hopoate said he would like the NRL to take a premiership match to PNG.
“I don’t see why not, we are taking games to Darwin, to Perth and to other parts of Australia,” Hopoate said. “There are probably more supporters here than in other states that don’t really support rugby league.
“These people obviously love it so much and the more games they get the more people will come as well so I think it would be good for the expansion of rugby league.”
Hill said there was a possibility of the Bulldogs hosting a match at the NFS in future.
“I’ll never say when but I will never say never. I ran three World Cup games up here in 2017 and been to 150 countries, it has given us the confidence and I think PNG can do whatever they want,” he said.

3 comments

  • We now have the right facilities with both Government and general public support because it’s our number 1 national sporting code in PNG.
    Bring more NRL games to POM will be great for International Rugby league and PNG in particular with more followers and participation by women and children.

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