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Photo credit: QRL

On 8 February 2024, the Australian Government announced an exciting new development in its ongoing support for Papua New Guinea’s national game with a renewed commitment to the Queensland Rugby League (QRL) and its work with the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL), delivered through PacificAus Sports.

“Australia and Papua New Guinea have a shared love of sport as expressed by Prime Minister Marape and Prime Minister Albanese in their Annual Leader’s Dialogue statement released today,” said the Hon Pat Conroy MP, Minister for International Development and the Pacific. “Rugby league, in particular, brings our communities closer together.”

Raising the profile of women’s rugby league in PNG will be a focus of this new phase of the partnership between the QRL and the PNGRFL. Existing women’s talent identification programs will be continued, and a new national women’s competition will be established. 

Jessikah Reeves, who plays with the national women’s team, the PNG Orchids, and debuted with the North Queensland Cowboys Women in 2023, is excited by the prospect of a national competition at home.

“It is a huge opportunity for our girls. It gives them a chance to showcase their talents and gain experience at a higher level,” said Jessikah. “This competition will help level the pathway for women in PNG, similar to the men, and support the future success of the Orchids. Together, as one big femili (family), we'll keep striving.”

The Australian Government’s renewed commitment will also help support the long-term sustainability of the PNG Hunters and their ongoing participation in the Queensland Cup. The Hunters first entered the competition in 2014, and were premiership winners in 2017.

Coaches, support staff and administrators involved in the elite game in PNG will also benefit, with an expansion of programs aimed at building their capabilities, and enhancing their credentials.

“The PNGRFL and the PNG Hunters are grateful for this partnership with the Australian Government and the QRL. The last two years have started the phase for long term improvement in the game in PNG,” said Stanley Hondina, CEO of PNGRFL.

These wide-ranging activities build on a program of work that was first kicked off by the QRL in 2020, with the aim of taking high-performance rugby league in PNG to the next level. 

“The QRL prides itself on being an experienced and responsible steward of the game in Queensland and we’re happy to share our knowledge and expertise with trusted partners,” noted QRL CEO, Ben Ikin.

The QRL’s development work with PNG’s most promising women’s and men’s players, carried out in partnership with the PNGRFL, helped drive impressive performances from PNG’s national teams at the 2023 Pacific Championships. The men’s team, the PNG Kumuls, triumphed as the winners of the Pacific Bowl, while the Orchids maintained their position in the top five of International Rugby League Women’s World Rankings.

The success of the national teams on the world stage has been a cause for celebration in PNG, where rugby league is embraced as the national sport, but also in Australia, where the growth of elite-level rugby league right across the Pacific is being watched with increasing sense of regional pride.

“These ties matter,” said Minister Conroy. “The more we understand and relate to each other, the more safe, stable and prosperous our region will be.”

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