State of Origin star Xavier Coates has been earmarked as the face of the franchise if Papua New Guinea’s bid for an NRL club is approved.

Papua New Guinea is in a battle to become one of the newest teams, with Perth also rumoured to be a strong chance.

As the NRL assesses which teams will be part of their next expansion, Minister for Internal Security Peter Tsiamalili Jnr and Kumul Petroleum Holdings managing director Wapu Sonk, who chairs the NRL bid, were guests of the league at Magic Round in Brisbane at the weekend.

They expressed a desire to be the first team picked for 2028 and have their eyes on Storm flyer Xavier Coates to become the face of the new franchise.

Coates, 23, who was born in Port Moresby, is signed to the Storm until the end of 2026.

He’s played eight times for the Kumuls and is viewed as a prime candidate. Fellow PNG star Justin Olam has also expressed optimism about playing for the team, even though he will be 33 if the team gets the green light in four years.

Officials from Papua New Guinea said having an NRL team in the nation will have a huge social impact on the youth, and reassured league powerbrokers that safety of travelling players and their families is paramount.

The Australian federal government has offered AUD$600million (about K1.5billion) over 10 years to make the bid a reality.

The regional member for Bougainville told The Sydney Morning Herald having a local team will mitigate the security risks in the nation and provide a path forward for disenchanted youth.

“It will unify the country and have a positive mindset on our young men and women,” Tsiamalili said.

“That will have a correlation to law and order, in my view.

“As the minister responsible for policing, it will really help us. Young men and women in PNG get inspired by the code. It will bring a different dynamic in the way we perceive ourselves.

“Every country and city in the world have their challenges. That’s no different to PNG.

“My personal view, and the way we see the game itself, is it will change the country.”