PNG Hopes To Host Pool Play For Rugby League World Cup

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International status of Kumuls on the rise

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, May 7, 2014) – PNG Rugby Football League "fairly confident" of hosting a pool group at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Rugby league in Papua New Guinea has achieved a significant boost with the number of international matches involving the Kumuls set to rise significantly over the next few years.

The PNG delegation to the recent Rugby League International Federation meeting in Sydney also pushed for a much larger slice of the action at the 2017 World Cup.

Instead of staging just one or two matches, they want hosting rights for a complete group.

Brad Tassell, the Chief Executive of the PNG Rugby Football League, told Pacific Beat the RLIF is also very keen for PNG to host a pool.

"We put a really strong case in regards to it which is still being assessed but we're pretty confident we will get the nod to do that with all the development that's happening particularly the rugby league programs and all the facilities up here," he said.

"I think there is a real groundswell of support - at the meeting we had delegates from all around the world and they've heard a lot of things about what's happening in Papua New Guinea, the rejuvenation on the game, everyone knew about the PNG Hunters as well from around the world.

"So there's a real focus on Papua New Guinea at the moment and being a nation of seven million people and having rugby league as a national sport, its vital that PNG are strong on the international scene."

The PNG delegation also called for the revival of the Pacific Cup as a four-nation, biannual event between PNG, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. PNG wants to host the first tournament in the off-season in October next year .

"We need to get up regular international games between the Pacific nations," Mr Tassell said.

"It's after the end of the NRL season, the end of the Queensland Cup season when players will be available and we'll be expecting the release of those players to compete in that tournament."

PNG also wants the go ahead for a one-off international this year and Mr Tassell said it would be against either Samoa or Italy on October 19.

Mr Tassell says the RLIF meeting was vital for Pacific nations to impress on the world body that they need to play regular test matches.

It's proposed that in the year when the Pacific Cup isn't played, Pacific nations would hold a test series - PNG versus Fiji and Samoa versus Tonga.

"We need to play more test matches, we need to give our players more international exposure and that's the only way that we're going to improve," he said.

Women's soccer misses out on money

Meanwhile, the vice-president of the Papua New Guinea Football Association, Linda Wonuhali, has criticised the PNG government for failing to come to the aid of the Women's National League.

The competition has been cancelled for 2014 after the FA failed to find a new sponsor.

It's a blow for the women's game in the run-up to the Pacific Games in Port Moresby next year, where PNG will be the defending champions.

While the government's focus is on rugby league, Ms Wonuhali argues that soccer has far greater potential on the international stage.

She told Pacific Beat that they will battle on, with or without the government's assistance.

"It does not discourage us - in August, we have the girls under 15 (team) that is leaving for the Youth Olympics in China and then we are hosting the Four Nations Cup so that will keep us fit and also these are internationally-recognised games that we are participating for this year - we're not going to give up," she said.

Ms Wonuhali says she's very disappointed that there's significant sponsorship for the men's game and sports like rugby league get government funding as well but women's soccer misses out on government help.

"I am very, very upset. To me, honestly, if you are looking at performance based on money, I think soccer is doing much, much better than rugby but even the men's competition in soccer does not seem to get a lot of support from the government.

"It is really frustrating to see that the government is not fair in contributing to other sports.

"Everyone of us are playing the same game here trying to promote sports and have our young people stay out of trouble."

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