The National, Tuesday July 16th, 2013
By JEFFREY ELAPA
AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has put his support behind Papua New Guinea’s inclusion in the Queensland rugby league state competition.
He said that would pave a way forward for a team to eventually enter the National Rugby League.
Rudd, who follows the NRL and backs the Queensland Maroons, said that he wants a PNG national rugby league team to participate in the Queensland Intrust Cup to gain experience before entering what is arguably the best rugby league competition in the world.
The PNG Rugby League Foundation has been tasked by the Government to enter a team in the Qld Cup by next year. The process will see the PNGRLF bid to the QRL with another expansion hopeful from North Queensland for the privilege of playing.
“Rugby league is in my heart and so I support and want PNG to play in the Queensland state competition and later enter the National Rugby League competition,” Prime Minister Rudd said.
The endorsement by Australia’s political head can only be a positive with predecessor Julia Gillard also voicing her support for the game in PNG on a trip to Port Moresby last year.
Gillard on that trip announced a A$20 million (K41 million) funding of junior rugby league through the AUS Aid programme.
Rudd’s latest gesture is also seen as a continuation of support the Australian governemtn has for sport as a tool for change and development in PNG.
During the press conference O’Neill and Rudd exchanged jerseys with the Australian PM receiving a Team Kumuls jersey while handing a Maroons jersey to his PNG counter-part.