The signing off of a Memorandum Of Understanding between the Cronulla Sharks and the Sydney Wantok Association was being recognised as an historic day for sport and international relations.

In creating a new working relationship, The Sharks-Wantok was formalised as the Sharks continue to develop their Pacific Engagement Strategy.

A component of the MOU also saw Honourable Consul General of PNG to Australia, Sumasy Singin, appointed alongside Sydney Wantok President Steven Gagau as Ambassadors for the Sharks Wantok.

The pair signed the agreement alongside Sharks Interim CEO Paul Eriksson and Head of Strategy and Growth Jonathan Prosser, with the two respected Papua New Guineans also presented with personalised Sharks jerseys to commemorate the new association.

The Consul General Mr Singin is highly regarded for his work in strengthening relations between PNG and Australia and enjoys a close working relationship with Mr Gagau, Mr Prosser and the Sharks.

“We believe this relationship will enable the Sharks to continue to develop their Pacific Engagement Strategy to be the ‘club of choice’ and to secure new fans by demonstrating their heart for Pacific countries and people,” Prosser said.

“This is potentially a world-first in professional sport. NRL clubs do not normally have diplomats supporting their relations and club development projects.

“However, this MOU sees the Sharks demonstrating true leadership in both community and government relations, and is a reason behind the considerable growth in support and recognition we have received for our genuine efforts to create a ‘home away from home’ for Pacific communities at our stadium and club.”

Some of the key provisions of the Sharks-Wantok include a new tailored Sharks membership offering for Wantok members, charitable donations and community engagement in PNG through the Sharks Have Heart foundation, including but not limited to initiatives related to Kokoda and professional pathways in the form of internships for PNG and Melanesian people who are Wantok members.

Player wellbeing and education will continue dialogue in ensuring a Melanesian perspective, while the Sharks will also position themselves as a “home away from home”, underpinning the relationship with a calendar of events to enable the Club’s venue to become available to Wantok members.

The Sharks-Wantok further strengthens relations with PNG following a recent trip to Kokoda by Sharks players and officials, the community work they completed while there to bring power to remote communities and the charitable donations of clothing to help those most in need.

“The Sharks have committed to making a real and measurable difference in the lives of Papua New Guineans both in Australia and PNG,” Prosser added. “The Sharks choose to do things differently to enable the growth of their positive social contribution and impact. This is a critical component of the Sharks long-term strength, and will deliver measurable growth to Football Club membership, Licensed Club events, and the impact of our charitable foundation, Sharks Have Heart .”

This event today included the public signing of the MOU and the presentation of the Honourable Sumasy Singin and Mr Gagau as Sharks-Wantok Ambassadors.

A message of support was also sent by Frank Puletua, Senior Manager – Pacific Strategy at NRL Community, and was presented to the audience in attendance which included media representatives, academics, community advocates and those engaged in strengthening ties between PNG and Australia. 

“The Sharks are absolutely leading the way, at the forefront, leading the charge for Pacific engagement, and showing their players that they are very supportive of their cultural background and the region they come from.”

Also discussed was the broader Pacific Engagement Strategy, including the Sharks arranged recent diplomatic forum held with Pacific community leaders, developments to the Club’s homestay network, amongst other topics relevant to the relations with Pacific nations. 

See following a link to an interview conducted by ABC Digital with Jonathan Prosser following yesterday’s Sharks-Wantok event – CLICK HERE