The Albanese Government is bolstering rugby league player development in Papua New Guinea with further assistance for high-performance pathways and the participation of the PNG Hunters team in the Hostplus Cup.

The assistance, under the PacificAus Sports program, continues the Government’s partnership with the Queensland Rugby League (QRL) as well as its support for the development of elite PNG rugby league players and PNG’s aspirations for an NRL franchise.

The assistance will be used to establish a national women’s competition in PNG and support a women’s talent identification program as well as build capabilities and credentials of PNG rugby league coaches, support staff and administrators.

Since 2020, the QRL – in close collaboration with the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) – has taken high performance rugby league to the next level.

This culminated in the Orchids’ and Kumuls’ impressive performance at the 2023 Pacific

Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Pat Conroy MP, said the program would continue to make a significant impact.

“Australia and Papua New Guinea have a shared love of sport and the linkages forged between our people through rugby league brings the two countries and their communities closer together,” Minister Conroy said.

“The Albanese Government is proud to support the establishment of a national women’s rugby league competition in PNG, which will provide talented female athletes with enhanced high-performance pathways to support their development.

“This commitment to establishing elite pathways for PNG rugby league players also marks a crucial step towards PNG achieving its aspiration of securing a franchise in both the NRL and NRLW.”

Minister for Sport Anika Wells echoed those sentiments.

“Investing in a national women’s competition will be a game changer for Papua New Guinea talent aspiring to play for the Orchids,” Minister Wells said.

“This assistance is further demonstration of our commitment to Pacific athletes and the development of women in sport, not just in Australia but abroad.”

Having already visited PNG twice since his appointment as QRL CEO, Ben Ikin is excited about the opportunity to continue to grow the game in the country.

“It’s a privilege to partner with the Australian Government, PNGRFL and the PNG Hunters to help support the growth of rugby league in PNG,” Ikin said.

“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.”

Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) CEO Stanley Hondina acknowledged the importance of the program.

“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,” Hondina said.

“Our female game is in its initial professional competition stage, and we are looking forward to getting it off the ground for the for first time’’.

‘’We appreciate the people-to-people connection piece that links our two countries and the support from the Australian Government and the QRL’’.

PNG Orchids player Jessikah Reeves said the support for rugby league from the people in PNG was unmatched.

“Playing at the Santos National Football Stadium in PNG in front of our local fans is an unreal experience,” Reeves said.

“As an Orchid, it means a lot to me to inspire young girls in PNG to put on the Orchids jersey and represent our country proudly.

“I believe there are many girls with the potential to earn that badge. My message to them is simple. ‘train hard and compete fiercely in everything you do’.

“Having a women’s national competition in PNG is a huge opportunity for our girls. It gives them a chance to showcase their talents and gain experience at a higher level.

“We (Santos PNG Orchids) have built our way up through determination. 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 family, we’ll keep striving.”.