The first NRL game of its kind in PNG will see a young Sharks side tackle a Bulldogs team featuring a sprinkling of their NRL stars, in a trial match to be played in Port Moresby on Saturday night.
And while Josh Dugan’s current injury situation will mean he won’t take to the field against the Bulldogs, the high-profile Shark is set to travel to PNG and play a vital goodwill role over the next three to four days.
While much of the attention will focus around the game, the visit and trial match are as much about spreading the rugby league gospel in a country obsessed with game and its NRL stars, as it is about the final score on Saturday night.
“Josh is a marquee player, not just at the Sharks but throughout the NRL and his presence will have a huge impact on the locals we come into contact with in PNG,” Sharks General Manager of Football Phil Moss said.
“It is an important role for him to play, he is an extremely popular figure amongst the locals and the PNG rugby league fraternity and having him attend some of the community events and initiatives we have planned will be well received,” Moss continued.
Ahead of the game on Saturday night, which kicks off at 5.30pm local time at PNG Football Stadium, the Sharks have a busy schedule of events planned.
Almost straight off the plane on Thursday the Sharks will participate in a signing session, before attending a reception at the Australian High Commission.
Also on Thursday, a delegation of players and officials from the Sharks will join the Kokoda Track Foundation in donating solar lighting to the Hagara School in Hanuabada, while on Friday morning prior to the Captains run the entire squad, Dugan included, will take part in a coaching clinic.
“We are sending a relatively young squad, so having Josh up there as a high-profile player we feel will be important for our brand and add to the experience during our time in PNG,” Moss added.
In relation to Dugan’s much-publicised injury concerns, after being assessed by both the Sharks medical team and an independent specialist, the Club will continue to work closely with him in an effort to have him fit and back on the field as soon as possible.
A time frame for a potential return for Dugan has yet to be determined.
The game in PNG marks the first official NRL trial held in PNG, with trials to be played in Pacific nations in 2020, 2021 and 2022, with the Sharks v Bulldogs trial proudly supported by the Australian Government through PacificAus Sports.