4 min read

Papua New Guinea NRL bid leader dismisses imminent license announcement


Speculation surrounding Papua New Guinea’s potential entry into the NRL competition as the 18th team took an interesting turn when bid boss Andrew Hill refuted claims of an impending license announcement.

Reports had recently surfaced suggesting that PNG was on the cusp of getting the green light to join the league, with other bids to base a new club in Perth, the South Island of New Zealand and Brisbane seemingly slipping down the pecking order.

Following the successful inaugural season of the Dolphins as the 17th NRL team, preparations are in full swing to expand the competition to accommodate an 18th team –and Papua New Guinea’s inclusion has garnered financial support from the Australian government. The consortium driving this bid is backed by the government of Papua New Guinea.

However, on a recent radio interview with 4BC’s Wide World of Sports Radio, Andrew Hill took the opportunity to clarify the situation.

“I thought I was going to have a fairly quiet day today,” Hill said.

“Look, there’s nothing new, but there’s no secret that our bid is supported by the Australian government. And of course … our consortium is actually from the government of PNG. So to have two prime ministers and two governments supporting the bid is a pretty unique situation and I think to take that opportunity with two hands to see what we can do for, the people of PNG and the game is an enormous opportunity.”

Throughout the bid process, there has been ongoing discussion about the possibility of some clubs merging, with North Sydney Bears (who competed in the premiership from 1908-99 until embarking on an ill-fated, short-lived merger with Manly Sea Eagles) frequently mentioned as a potential partner.

Hill didn’t rule out such a partnership in the future.

“Our bid’s so unique, we’re a consortium that has got government support and we’re owned by the government of PNG, which is a really unique bid to start with. And we’ve spoken about a Pacific team, a Pacific relationship, bringing our Pacific Brothers along the journey.

“I’m not going to go into detail, but don’t be surprised how many other bids and other people have made contact with us directly or indirectly. And what that does is it gives us great confidence that there is a real belief that our bid is genuine. And that our bid is being well-regarded and it will be professional. So we, we’re keeping an open mind.”

“Things are moving quickly and so we’re not going to cut off any opportunity. We’re open, we’re engaged, we’re listening, but certainly where we are right at the moment solely is we are focusing on PNG, we’re focusing on ourselves.”

Hill also confirmed that Cairns is under consideration as a potential base for the team.
“We’ve definitely spoken about Cairns to a lot of people. I think it’s important to say that, you know, we need an identity and our identity will be very much PNG, so we’ll soon be playing our games at Santos Stadium in Port Moresby,” he said.

“But of course, you come back to that earlier question about what our final model might look like and what other opportunities there may be, taking a game to Fiji … Tonga as part of a broader Pacific strategy could be there.”

“If we are based in Cairns, obviously Souths have been playing there for 10 years quite successfully so a game or two there, those things are still up for consideration, but definitely playing most of our games in Port Moresby.”

The rugby league world awaits the next steps in this fascinating – though somewhat controversial – journey towards PNG’s potential inclusion in the NRL.

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