The NRL is poised to announce Papua New Guinea as the location for the league’s 18th team.

2GB radio host Ben Fordham on Wednesday revealed a deal has been struck with the game’s governing body and the governments of both nations.

It’s said to be worth $600 million (US$396.72 million) over 10 years.

“The deal is done. The deal has been done,” Fordham told Ben Fordham Live.

“Now it’s all coming down to timing of when Anthony Albanese takes it to cabinet, and I don’t think that’s going to be too far away.”

The official announcement of the agreement is believed to have been put on hold.

Papua New Guinea is grappling with a devastating and deadly landslide in recent days, while Prime Minister James Marape may also be facing a vote of no confidence in parliament.

And Fordham explained why the expansion decision is as much a political one as a football one.

“This whole NRL-PNG thing is going to cop some heat,” he said.

“Rugby league fans are cynical about expansion, AFL states will be seeing it as an unnecessary gift to a rival code, and if you put the whole thing to a pub test… we would question the spending.

“But this is more than a footy team in PNG. This is about China.

“Australia and China have spent the past few years in a battle stance. There’s an intense struggle for influence playing out in the region.

“China wants a security footing in the Pacific, that’s what this is about.

“This is why PNG matters so much to Australia. We want to keep them close to us.
“That’s why I believe the $600m (US$396.72 million) investment is strategically wise.

“James Marape wanted a rugby league team – we had the one thing he really wanted and he couldn’t get from anywhere else or from anyone else.

“When you view it as a China issue, and not a rugby league one, the $600m (US$396.72 million) doesn’t seem so much.”

The 17th team to enter the NRL was the Dolphins last year.