Up to half of Papua New Guinea’s World Cup squad were yesterday forced to delay their trips to Australia because of visa problems as the country’s Prime Minister Michael Somare launched a bid to have a team in the NRL.
Papua New Guinea coach Adrian Lam yesterday backed a government bid for the country to have a team as Hull KR pair Stanley Gene and Makali Aizue were among those stranded in Port Moresby after being denied permission to board the team’s flight to Cairns because paperwork for their entry to Australia hadn’t been finalised.
Kumuls officials were last night trying to arrange for the duo and eight members of the squad from the domestic PNG competition to arrive today aboard another flight. All were travelling on PNG passports.
The setback to the Kumuls’ preparations for their opening match against England next Saturday came amid revelations Somare had written to the ARL seeking to have a PNG team in the NRL.
In the letter, Somare said his government would provide funding to ensure a team was admitted, and he invited NRL officials to travel to PNG to open talks about what was needed for the country to have an NRL team.
“They obviously would have a lot to do but the fact that the government of another country wants to have a team in our competition is a fair rap on Australian rugby league,” ARL chief executive Geoff Carr said.
“The model for them is probably the Gold Coast Titans, who spent about 10 years campaigning to have a team in the competition and had to get a suitable stadium and guaranteed funding before they were admitted.”
PNG is the only country where league is the national sport, and NRL players are treated like rock stars when they visit, as the members of Mal Meninga’s Prime Ministers XIII, who played the Kumuls last month, discovered.
Unfortunately, games in PNG are often marred by crowd problems, and its stadiums are inadequate for NRL matches.