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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    The Crowd Says (59)

    • July 7th 2011 @ 3:10am
      GrecoRoman said | July 7th 2011 @ 3:10am | ! Report

      Comparing and contrasting PNG’s RL results with Pacific Islands’ results in RU is irrelevant. Sure you have a large population, but the basic infrastructure in PNG is extremely poor and spread out. It’s just not conducive to developing professional athletes in any code of Rugby, or any professional sport. What should be celebrated is the role Rugby League plays within the disparate communities in that country. Large swathes of the country are still only just now transitioning to fully developed neolithic settlement and you expect to graft on successfully a football code which only emerged in England after the industrial revolution? Nowadays considering the corruption and chaos in the country, as well as its overall uneven development, it’s a wonder they can put out a national rep team at all.

      • July 7th 2011 @ 8:03am
        Dave said | July 7th 2011 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        thats not a good excuse at all samoa, tonga and fiji also have their problems just like png but png have more money and resources so theres no excuse. they did without the irb money and now they are going forward with funds from rugby world cup.

        • July 7th 2011 @ 11:26am
          mushi said | July 7th 2011 @ 11:26am | ! Report

          Really PNG’s GDP per capita is below all of them and by a long, long margin.

          Having a higher actual GDP doens’t help that much when the per capita number is so hideously low especially for sports infrastructure

        • September 5th 2011 @ 2:07am
          CRASHZONE said | September 5th 2011 @ 2:07am | ! Report

          yea but samoa tonga and fiji dont come from a real dangerous country, PNG is well known to the world (mainly port moresby the capital for being rated worlds most dangerous city back in 2005) and has been in the top 5 for the last 10 years. The other islands dont have to face these challenges and corruption PNG do!!!

    • July 7th 2011 @ 5:43am
      Kevin Higginson said | July 7th 2011 @ 5:43am | ! Report

      RL should forget about international matches an concentrate on developing a World League of between 30-36 franchises, inclduing PNG franchise.
      My suggestion would be 16 teams in SH and 16 in NH, playing a 16-18 game season with play-offs.

      • July 7th 2011 @ 8:13am
        p.Tah said | July 7th 2011 @ 8:13am | ! Report

        Is that what Super League envisaged… Eventually?

    • July 7th 2011 @ 8:23am
      Robot said | July 7th 2011 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      After the 2008 World Cup the Cowboys signed a few of the Kumuls (Jesse Joe Parker etc) guys but couldn’t get them to stay due to issues with work visas etc which sucks

      • July 8th 2011 @ 12:03am
        corey said | July 8th 2011 @ 12:03am | ! Report

        Im a big fan of Jessie Joe Parker (JJP), I think he plays in the English championship, but I believed he would have been a star for any team. I was hoping Wayne Bennett would pick him up.

        • July 12th 2011 @ 10:45pm
          dickson said | July 12th 2011 @ 10:45pm | ! Report

          yes…we the village boys from the remoted part of Southern Highlands of png has to travell some 100 of kilometers to watch the game of Jessy Joe Parker and followers of his game,
          i love his footy…he’s well desciplined and committed to his career and a true rugby league son of png.
          i prayed that wayne benneth should pick him….. try him out there in NRL.

    • July 7th 2011 @ 8:33am
      turbodewd said | July 7th 2011 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      the issues with PNG are exactly as identified before, its culture and relative development are way behind. There are no doubt great athletes in PNG, Im surprised there arent more NRL scouts up there looking for the athletic kids who can be turned into RL players. Maybe there needs to be a Qld based scholarship thingo setup.

      Putting an NRL team there wont work…maybe in 20 or 30 years.

      • July 7th 2011 @ 7:40pm
        Sam said | July 7th 2011 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

        I don’t think an NRL team would even be suitable in 20-30 years, they would make no money (3rd world country, no disposable income, therefore not attractive to sponsors). I think the best they could hope for would be a QLD Cup team as a feeder to the Cowboys, or eventually a feeder to a club based in Darwin if the NRL chooses to expand there at some stage in the distant future.

    • July 7th 2011 @ 8:48am
      Crosscoder said | July 7th 2011 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      All is not lost with PNG,they have in operation this year a semi pro comp: The Digicel Cup(10 teams)
      I don’t know about forgotten :PNG are one of the automatic qualifers for the RLWC2013.
      More money up to this stage ,doubt it.Yes the country is resource rich,but they have not had the intensive regular school comps over the years that the PI have.In fact for many years rl was not allowed to be played in the schools(the “danger”factor) since lifted.And I suggest getting around in PNG with its geography is a tad more difficult than Fiji and the others.
      I agree with GrecoRoman in that regard.
      The other problem is the internal factional infighting that a times is endemic in the game there.The time they last played in the 4 nations ,the national coach Lam pulled out due to it ,and another guy a local took over.he was npot opular with the players,I understand.
      Once this country beomes more highly developed and ditto the players become attuned to professionalism,watch out.These guys know how to attack,but their defence at times is lamentable.Bring more of them as juniors into rl academies and hone their skills over time.

    • July 7th 2011 @ 8:53am
      Tigranes said | July 7th 2011 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      I think it might be worthwhile if NRL clubs were given salary cap exemptions to sign young PNG players.

      I think any NRL side based in PNG is going to be a waste of time and money. I believe a more appropriate way to help out PNG would be to have as many players as possible playing professionally in Australia and England. It worked for the Pacific Islands in rugby union.

      • July 7th 2011 @ 12:24pm
        db swannie said | July 7th 2011 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

        I think it might be worthwhile if NRL clubs were given salary cap exemptions to sign young PNG players.
        spot on mate.
        I have advocated this on other forums.
        Each NRL club should be able to sign one national from a developing RL country.which does not affect the cap.
        Could you imagine how competitive the PNG team would be after the majority of their players had spent 3-5 yrs playing
        /accsessing the professionalism/fitness etc of the NRL.

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