Has international rugby league let PNG down?

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 Leon Pryce is lifted in the tackle during the International Rugby League World Cup match, England v Papua New Guinea. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan

Papua New Guinea is without doubt a rugby league heartland. The State of Origin would be the most popular annual sporting event in the country.

For many men, their most prized possession is the NRL jersey of their favourite team. However, it seems as though, international rugby league has let Papua New Guinea down big time.

Back in 1990, the Kummuls drew a Test series with Great Britain. These days, the Kummuls are the whipping boys whenever they play Australia, New Zealand or Great Britain. Why is this so?

I believe, a valid comparison can be made with the likes of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa in rugby union.

Back in 1991, Samoa, at their first World Cup, shook up the rugby world, by defeating Wales and qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Back then, rugby union was not professional, and when it did turn professional, there were fears that the Pacific Island nations would fall behind.

These fears are largely unfounded.

At the last IRB World Cup, Fiji were one tackle away from defeating the eventual champions South Africa.

Samoa qualified for the quarter-finals again in 1995 and 1999 and are still competitive against the likes of Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

So whilst the Papua New Guinea rugby league team has apparently fallen backwards, the rugby union teams of Samoa, Fiji and Tonga have retained their position in international rugby union.

When you compare the relative populations (Papua New Guinea has over six million people, while Fiji, Tonga and Samoa have a combined population of a little over a million), this looks even worse for Papua New Guinea.

I believe the disparity is aptly shown by the amount of professionals in each sport.

There are over 100 Fijians, Tongans and Samoans playing professional rugby union in Europe. This does not include those playing in New Zealand or Japan.

By contrast, there are fewer than 20 Papuans playing professional rugby league in Australia or England.

However, this does not explain anything apart from the fact that maybe Fijians, Samoans and Tongans are better rugby union players than Papuans are rugby league players.

Are there any other reasons why the Kummuls are the seemingly forgotten child of international rugby league when it is the one place where rugby league is king?

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