The Sharks and Bulldogs will take part in an historic rugby league event when Papua New Guinea hosts its first official NRL trial match in February next year.
Representing the first time the NRL has hosted a trial match in Port Moresby, the game will be a part of a program supported by the Australian Government, with the further trial matches to be played in Pacific nations in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
In addition to the pre-season trial, scheduled for February 22 at Port Moresby’s $88 million international-quality 15,000-seat National Football Stadium, the Sharks will arrive in PNG a number of days prior to the match and will participate in NRL and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade programs targeted towards promoting social inclusion, participation, equality and health and wellbeing.
This trial and the subsequent matches have been made possible because of the Australian Government’s commitment to the Australia-Pacific Sports Linkages Program.
Sharks Chief Executive Richard Munro expressed his excitement at the Club having this opportunity to participate in this first NRL trial match for PNG.
“This is an important, ground-breaking moment for the game and fitting that our club is taking part,’’ Munro said.
"We have supported and continue to support the Kokoda Track Foundation, have invested much time and resources into PNG and our Pacifica strategy and are looking forward to furthering our relationship with the region by playing in this trial match.
"It will be a rewarding and valuable week for our club and for the people of PNG and our players are excited to have the opportunity to work with the local communities and to help grow the game," he added.
The Sharks and Bulldogs were in Port Moresby for the trial announcement today, concluding a week in which they have helped to build schools and interact with a number of villages.
Sione Katoa and Sharks Development Manager Daniel Holdsworth represented the Sharks at the trial announcement, with Ronaldo Mulitalo participating in the community activities earlier in the week before flying to New Zealand to link up with the Samoan squad ahead of their upcoming Pacific Test.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said the landmark match highlighted the popularity of rugby league in the Pacific and thanked the Federal Government for their ongoing partnership in growing the game in developing nations.
“This is an exciting and valuable step for the game. We know so many of our players were born in Pacific nations and are idolised in nations like Papua New Guinea who have a genuine passion for rugby league,’’ Greenberg said.
“We thank the Federal Government for their ongoing partnership. It was remarkable to see both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister attend the PM XIII match in Fiji earlier this month.
“Rugby league brings communities together and with the federal government there is so much we can do to enhance their region.”
Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Bruce Davis said both nations would benefit from the match.
“There is no doubting the importance of rugby league to the close ties that PNG and Australia enjoy. It is a touchpoint that brings our people and our institutions together in ways that we both benefit from,’’ Mr Davis added.
With the PNG trial pencilled in, the Sharks pre-season will include the NRL Nines in Perth on February 15-16, the Bulldogs match on February 22, before a final trial hit out the following weekend.
The NRL season draw will be announced soon, with round one expected to commence on the weekend starting March 13.