First ever PNG female rugby team sponsored

Oil Search has created sporting history by partnering with the PNG Rugby Football League to sponsor the first ever PNG female national rugby league team to participate in international events.

Oil Search was announced this week as the naming rights sponsor for the inaugural Oil Search PNG Orchids – the women’s team to participate in the annual PNG Prime Minister’s XIII against Australia next month and also in the 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup.

Speaking during the launch, Oil Search Managing Director Peter Botten said Oil Search is a proud advocate of women’s empowerment and strongly supports the campaign to end violence against women, through the company as well as the Oil Search Foundation.

“We are of the firm belief that the national sport should be the domain for both men and women,’’ Botten said. “We are not only sponsoring the team, but we will also be sponsoring the coverage of the women’s tournament through a partnership with EMTV, which will enable more people in PNG to watch the Oil Search PNG Orchids in action in Australia.

“We want this group of talented women to be showcased around the world, demonstrating and celebrating female talent.

“PNG is a proud rugby league nation and as a proud PNG company, it makes sense for us to be a major player in promoting PNG and the amazing talent it produces.’’

His sentiments were echoed by Lynda Babao-O’Neill, the wife of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Commending the PNGRFL for advancing women’s rugby league in PNG, she said it was good to see more attention being given to what used to be exclusive male sport.

“Support for the Oil Search PNG Orchids demonstrates the progress and potential of women’s rugby in Papua New Guinea.

“The international events can only strengthen and develop the code in Papua New Guinea. I would like to commend the PNGRFL and sponsors for seeing the talent of our women, and harnessing and nurturing them.’’

PNGRFL chairman Sandis Tsaka commended Oil Search for stepping up to support women’s rugby league in PNG.

Whilst the women’s game has been played in PNG in various capacities since the early 1970s, it was never properly organised nor recognised as a formal sporting competition until February 2014, when the current PNGRFL Board formally ratified the Women’s Competition to recognise, incorporate and sanction the Women’s Rugby League program into the National RL Competition Structure.

The PNGRFL’s Strategic Plan 2014-2017 incorporates the women’s involvement in the sport as a key development priority of the game.

We believe that for rugby league to rightfully claim to be the National Sport of PNG, the sport has to be gender inclusive and that means to proactively promote the involvement of our girls and women in all aspects of the game from playing, referring and officiating to management and governance of the game.

From its humble beginnings in 2014 when the game commenced with competitions in 4 provinces with less than 800 players, the competition has now grown to include 14 provinces in all four regions with over 22 PNGRFL  sanctioned Local Women’s RL Competitions with over 6,000 players.

Tsaka said it was in fact, the fastest growing brand of rugby league in PNG where women have now started playing in the U6-U12 Mini Mode and U14, U16 and U18 competitions under our and National Schools Rugby League Program.

Press release