PNG want to feature in NRL

PNG Rugby League TeamPAPUA New Guinean rugby league heavyweights have kicked off proceedings to force their way into Australia’s National Rugby League competition by 2014.

The PNG Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) will begin discussions with NRL officials in Sydney while attending the International Rugby League Board meeting.

PNG chairman Albert Veratau said they are also working closely with existing NRL side, the Penrith Panthers to put together a genuine case for entry into the NRL.

Along with the NRL case, PNGRFL will embrace NSW’s junior rugby league program.

“It’s time for PNG in the NRL,” he said.

“We want to make the numbers right and will be speaking to the NRL about the PNG club by 2014,” he said.

Previously a flanker with the Knights nearly 20 years ago (1989/90); PNG chairman of selectors Arnold Kerwanty said a PNG club should first enter the Queensland Cup to prepare for the NRL challenge.

“We will need players who have the week-in week-out NRL game experience, or Queensland Cup experience, so they can become the backbone of a future competitive NRL club,” he said.

Kerwanty confirmed PNG rugby league was hindered by Australia’s tough existing immigration rules.

“Laws need to be relaxed so PNG players don’t require huge contracts to play for Aussie footy clubs,” he said.

“If there are more players in NRL feeder clubs or just playing amateur footy at Australia’s higher standard it will lift our game too, but immigration laws are preventing this,” he said.

NRL media man John Brady said PNG’s push was encouraging news but there was no immediate plan to expand.

“It’s a case of watch this space.

“If they aim high, work hard and make a compelling case then it doesn’t mean it’s out of the question.

“The passion exists, everybody is aware how fanatical PNG is for rugby league and they are on our doorstep, so of course we want to support that,’ he said.

Rugby league is considered PNG’s national game with a strong following of the NRL and local SP Cup.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, during his State visit to PNG last month, gave $250,000 to develop sport, in particular rugby league.

Marcus Bai and current national coach, Adrian Lam, are PNG’s headline acts over the previous years while Paul Aiton and Keith Peters, both at the Panthers, are other PNG local big names.

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