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PNG set to host NRL trial Matches

Papua New Guinea is one step closer to hosting an official NRL competition match with Canterbury and Cronulla set to clash on the Pacific Island next year.

In an historic first for rugby league, the Bulldogs and Sharks will commence their 2020 NRL campaigns with a February trial match in Port Moresby.

It will be the first time the NRL has hosted a trial match in PNG and is part of a programme supported by the Australian Government which will see trial matches played in the Pacific in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The Dogs and Sharks will play at Port Moresby’s $88 million (US$40 million) international-quality 15,000-seat National Football stadium on 22 February – three weeks before round one of the NRL season.

The plan is for both clubs to arrive in PNG several days before the match in order to conduct coaching clinics while also promoting welfare and education programs throughout the capital while also increasing their fan and membership base.

PNG is the only country in the world that can claim rugby league as its national sport and have made no secret of their bid to be part of the NRL competition.

The Papua New Guinea Hunters have been part of Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup since 2014 – viewed by many as a stepping stone towards their NRL inclusion.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said the trial match was proof the code was intent on broadening rugby league’s footprint and impact on social behaviours.

“This is an exciting and valuable step for the game,” Greenberg said.

“We know so many of our players were born in Pacific nations and are idolised in nations like Papua New Guinea who have a genuine passion for rugby league.

“We thank the Federal Government for their ongoing partnership. It was remarkable to see both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister attend the PM’s XIII match in Fiji earlier this month.

“Rugby league brings communities together and with the federal government there is somuch we can do to enhance these regions.” Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill said his club jumped at the opportunity to finalise their 2020 preparations with a “camp style” trip that boasted endles opportunities for the club and code.

“To have been invited to take part in this match and help promote the sport in this important part of the world is fantastic news for our club,’’ he said.

“Our core club values of family and inclusiveness are acknowledged as major elements to help grow the game and the value that rugby league can play in PNG.”

Sharks CEO Richard Munro added: “This is ground-breaking moment and it’s important that our club is taking part.

“Our players are looking forward to going to PNG and working with the local communities to grow the game. It will be a rewarding and valuable week for our club and for the people of PNG,” he said.

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