League has state, PM on side

Editorial, Normal

The National, Tuesday September 29th, 2015

 RUGBY league’s fortunes seem to be getting brighter as the days roll by with news this week that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is keen on having the country host 2017 World Cup matches.

Before the last World Cup in 2013, Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko said then that it was certainly within Papua New Guinea’s capability to host international matches and the PNG Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) could lobby the International Rugby League Federation to have at 

the very least some pool matches played in Port Moresby.

After the success of the Pacific Games and the numbers of fans that have gone to see rugby league matches hosted at the Sir John Guise Stadium over the course 

of 2015, the city has 

shown that it can host big matches.

Over the weekend, the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII took on their PNG counterparts in front of a sell-out crowd (15,000 plus) at the SJGS and despite the home side losing 40-12 there was not one league fan that went away disappointed in the spectacle put on by some of the National Rugby League’s best talent against the best of the local crop.

O’Neill has said that the stadia in the capital would need to be further developed to cater for more fans. 

That makes sense, with an eight million population, 10 percent of whom live in the National Capital District, it stands to reason that the current capacity at these venues would have to be considered inadequate in the medium term.

The situation would be like league-mad Sydney still using the Allianz Stadium (formerly the Sydney Football Stadium) today with a capacity of just 45,000 as its main ground. 

With a population of well over three million that simply cannot cater for the demand. 

That is one of the reasons why Allianz is not considered when hosting major rugby league and rugby union matches. 

Port Moresby has three main stadiums that could cater for international fixtures as well as Queensland Cup matches and attendance figures are more than likely to be high for the foreseeable future with the PNGRFL still holding on to its aim of eventually having a team into the NRL. 

The country will host the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup next year and a large part of the reason why the bid was successful was because of the availability of international standard venues.

As an aside, the Ipswich Jets beat the Townsville Blackhawks 32-20 in front of a largely empty Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.  

The venue’s capacity is 60,000 plus but the on the biggest day of the Intrust Super Cup competition barley 3000 people turned up to watch.

If the Hunters had made the final, one could have expected at least three times that number to turn up. 

The Sir John Guise Stadium (15,000), Sir Hubert Murray Stadium (20,000) and the National Football Stadium (15,000) are the country’s main sports arenas. 

O’Neill is keen on boosting the capacity of these venues to around 25,000 each. 

But while that would be good news for fans it would pose problems for the builders who would need to 

figure out a way to add another 5000 to 10,000 seats to the existing infrastructure. 

The SJGS in particular would need a feat of engineering excellence in order to increase its seating given that it is in a confined area.

One would hope that aside from the NCD, 

the state also intends to build-up stadia in the provinces. 

It would be great to host World Cup matches but the experience would be even more meaningful for the people if those matches could be played outside of the nation’s capital as well.

Kalabond Oval (Kokopo) and the Lae Rugby League Ground (Lae) are two venues that could benefit from O’Neill’s vision for PNG to host pool matches. 

Of course it would be even better if instead of just hosting a match or two, the country could host a pool. 

If the PNGRFL is successful in its bid to host a pool at the next World Cup then that would be further reason to upgrade the major rugby league venues nationwide.

These are exciting times because the state is now firmly on side in terms of developing sports for the long term.