The Australian Government and Queensland Rugby League will deliver a four-year AUD$9.7 million (about K24.5m) investment to support women’s rugby league and high-performance in partnership with the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League.

Feakes said the partnership through PacificAus Sports would build the capacity and credentials of local rugby league coaches, support staff and administrators for both the women’s and men’s game.

“Australia is committed to promoting greater inclusion of women and girls in sport and is pleased to support female athletes through this programme,” Feakes said.

“Women’s rugby league in PNG has come a long way in a few short years. PNG Orchids’ debut performance in the 2017 World Cup and PNG now establishing a women’s national competition shows that barriers to gender equality are being broken down.”

Queensland Rugby League’s chief executive Ben Ikin said this partnership would continue its support to the PNG Hunters in the Queensland Cup and continue high-performance pathways in PNG.

“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.”

PNGRFL chief executive Stanley Hondina said the PNGRFL and the PNG Hunters were 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 links that connect our two countries as well as the support from the Australian Government and the QRL in launching this new initiative.”

Speaking of the benefits for female and male players Belinda Gwasamun said “through the support of this partnership, I have been privileged enough to be able to travel and play in Australia and at a World Cup, as well as have a more dedicated consistency to my high-performance training”.