GREETINGS to our rugby league family and welcome to our 21st edition of the “Fulltime Reserve” column for this year, in our favourite rugby league newspaper, The National.
In the last few days, the 2021 Rugby League World Cup (2021RLWC) and the International Rugby League (IRL) have had to confront significant challenges that have seriously threatened to the derail the staging of the tournament following the abrupt decisions by the Australian and the New Zealand rugby league governing bodies to withdraw the participation of their teams from the tournament.
These decisions have sent shockwaves across the rugby league world and left the organisers and the IRL scrambling to mitigate the fallout and work towards salvaging the tournament.
I must admit, the last few days have been the most challenging period for international rugby league in the last eight years of my involvement in the game in PNG and internationally in my capacity as the chairman of the Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation (APRLC) and also as a director of the International Rugby League Board.
In PNG, we have taken the deliberate position to continue to carefully monitor the rapidly evolving developments and staying engaged with all our local and international partners to ensure that when a final decision on the 2021 World Cup is made, PNG can be in the best possible position to move forward.
As part of this strategy, we have reached out to Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys this week to confirm our Prime Minister’s XIII matches which were initially scheduled as the final matches for both the Kumuls and the Orchids before departing for the world cup.
As Chairman of APRLC, I called a special board meeting this week where NRL chief executive officer Andrew Abdo and New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters, were able to brief the other members of the board on their decision to withdraw from the world cup.
The full APRLC board also had the opportunity to hear from the IRL chairman Troy Grant and Andrew Hill of the 2021RLWC organising committee, who provided an update of the latest developments with regard to the preparations for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
The APRLC and the member nations were advised that the consultations between the IRL, the 2021RLWC and the participating nations would be ongoing over the next few days and a final decision on the 2021RLWC would be made in the next seven to 10 days.
With less than three months before the start of the 2021RLWC, there is growing awareness and anxiety that there are still huge challenges yet to overcome both for the tournament and for the participating national teams’ preparations.
It is in the interest of the 2021RLWC and the international game that a final decision is made urgently to provide certainty for all nations and their stakeholders.
Until next week, may the grace, love and care of our Good Lord be with you.