expansion, 18th team, PNG, Papua New Guinea Kumuls, when?, North Sydney Bears, where will they be based, Cairns, Port Moresby, Pasifika team

The North Sydney Bears losing $11 million in promised NSW government funding has put Papua New Guinea in the box seat to be named the 18th NRL side.

The funding promised by Dom Perrottet’s ousted Liberal government in the lead up to this year’s state election has been scrapped by new Labor premier Chris Minns.

On the other hand, the federal government has financially backed PNG to join the NRL in a move made by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to improve international relations.

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PNG Prime Minister James Marape asked the Australian Government for a NRL team by 2025 to mark the 50th anniversary of his country’s independence – and Albanese is determined to deliver it.

Albanese wants a Port Moresby-based team, with games to also be played in Cairns, as a way to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Australia’s Pacific Minister Pat Conroy in July committed $5.5 million to help PNG prepare a business case for their NRL bid and develop a pipeline of players.

Albanese has reportedly indicated privately that his government is prepared to help underwrite a team with up to $25 million a year from the foreign aid budget.

Edwin Ipape of Papua New Guinea. GettySource: Getty Images


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The PNG Hunters joined the Queensland Cup in 2014 and won the title 2017 – the same year the national side made the quarterfinals of the Rugby League World Cup.

PNG hosted the Australia’s PM’s XIII in Port Moresby last month and the Kumuls more than held their own against a side full of NRL stars.

They then thrashed the Cook Islands last weekend in their Pacific Championships opener as PNG’s expansion bid builds serious momentum.

Andrew Hill is the lead consultant for PNG’s bid and told foxsports.com.au that the Australian government support was a “game changer”.

“The bid itself is not being run an individual but by the government of PNG,” Hill said.

“It could (go ahead without Albanese’s support) but there’s no doubt having both the Australian and the PNG government involved is a game changer.”

On the back of the Dolphins successful entry in the NRL this year, there were reports on Thursday that the Kumuls could join the competition as soon as 2025

But Hill emphasised however that whoever wins the next NRL licence, it would only be announced by 2025 and the side would enter the NRL closer to 2027.

The Australia Government in August announced it would tip in $7 million to help fund the inaugural Pacific Championship, a tournament involving men’s and women’s teams from Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

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The bid team are focusing on an outright PNG team, but a Pasifika model is also being considered.

Samoa and Parramatta captain Junior Paulo has previously said he would play for a Pasifika NRL side.

Super Rugby has provided a Pasifika case study for the NRL with their latest expansion side Moana Pasifika.

Moana entered the competition in 2022 and is made up of players from Pacific island nations as well as Australians with Pacific island heritage.

“We’ve seen in Super Rugby that they have established a Pasifika team,” Hill said last year.

“Whilst we think rugby league in the Pacific is far stronger, it gives us the confidence to discuss what a Pacific team may look like.

“Obviously PNG would be leading those discussions, but clearly the genuine goal of the PNG government is to get more content in PNG and a licence based there.

“We’ve seen how engaged our players across the NRL are in representing their Pacific heritage, culture and families.

“That passion the players have is getting stronger and gathering momentum.”

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The Post expansion, 18th team, PNG, Papua New Guinea Kumuls, when?, North Sydney Bears, where will they be based, Cairns, Port Moresby, Pasifika team Originally Posted on www.foxsports.com.au

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