TONGA have rallied to the mounting Pacific Islands support for Papua New Guinea to enter a team in the tough Australian NRL competition.
Tonga follows Pacific neighbours Fiji in lending their support to the PNG NRL Bid Team headed by state minister Philemon Embel to acquire a licence to enter a PNG team, consisting of PNG and Pacific Islands players, into the NRL competition over the next couple of years.
Fiji announced their unanimous support earlier during the week in the wake of PNGNRL Bid team chairman and Minister assisting the Prime Minister Mr Embel’s remarks that PNG’s bid to enter a team in the NRL competition would create opportunities for other Pacific Islands players who will come into calculation for selection into the team.
The official announcement of Tonga’s support was made yesterday by Mr Embel in the company of PNG NRL Bid Team manager Bev Broughton, Tongan National Rugby League (TNRL) chairman Saia Moehau and Tongan team manager George Moala.
The latter, the father of the late PNG pilot Jenny Moala, who died tragically in the Kokoda plane crash last month, was formerly a Unitech student and ex-Lae Brothers RLFC and Northern Zone representative league player.
TNRL chairman Moehau said Tonga saw PNG as a big brother and acknowledged that the PNG people were “very passionate about rugby league more than any other Pacific Island countries”.
“It is good for rugby league good for the expansion the NRL competition and will benefit rugby league players in the Pacific region as selectors will be considering players from Tonga, Fiji and Samoa and Cook Islands,” he said.
The support from Tonga would benefit the two countries in terms of sports and bilateral ties, he said.
According to the chairman of TNRL, there were many Pacific Island players in the NRL competition and the Australian Kangaroos were taking advantage of the opportunity to pluck the very best Pacific Islands players in the squad.“This is the opportunity,” he said, “for PNG to select the best players within PNG and the Pacific Island countries to enter a competitive team that will not only perform for the region as a whole, but add a Pacific flavour to the NRL competition and unite the Pacific together to cheer their team on in the near future.
Mr Embel commended Tongan league officials for coming on board to support the PNG NRL bid.
He said PNG’s hosting of the Pacific Cup provided the opportunity to rally the support of the Pacific Islands countries.
He added that Australian National Rugby League was moving to expand the sport to throughout the Austral-Asia region and PNG was ably placed to take up the challenge of entering a team in the NRL competition.
“I would like very much to see PNG and home-grown Pacific Islanders in the team.
“Granted, the NRL competition is very tough and it had a high level of competitiveness.
“We welcome PNG having other top Pacific Islands players in the team with the hope of l further boosting and strengthening the success of the PNG NRL Team,” he said.
PNG-NRL Bid Team manager Bev Broughton commended Tonga Rugby League for their support, saying there was a lot of work ahead to lay the groundwork to at least secure a licence in 2013 if all goes well.
She said it was such support from neighbours in the Pacific which would lend credibility and drive in their efforts.