The four-year extension to play in the QRL’s flagship statewide competition is set to provide a significant boost for the game in PNG, as well as Queensland, with big crowds again expected to follow the Hunters.
QRL Chairman Bruce Hatcher said it was an exciting time for fans of the Intrust Super Cup, which kicks off next month.
“We’re delighted to stand alongside the PNGRFL for this important announcement today, as the Hunters’ continued participation is important on many fronts,” Hatcher said.
“Their involvement provides a pathway for emerging PNG players to fulfil their potential; and their unique style and flair is a major drawcard for our competition in terms of crowd support and our media and digital footprint.”
PNG will largely fund their inclusion in the competition through their own revenue streams.
“As custodians of the game, our charter is to grow and support grassroots rugby league in Queensland, which means we are unable to fully fund PNG’s participation within this new agreement,” Hatcher said.
“However, we are certainly mindful of getting the balance right for the overall good of the game, and as such we will continue to invest time and resources into the Hunters as well as significant whole of game funding.”
Since bursting onto the Intrust Super Cup scene in 2014, the Hunters have been one of the competition’s heavy hitters.
They finished sixth in their debut season, before going on to play in three consecutive finals series.
The 2017 season was their most productive to date, with a last-gasp grand final try securing an historic premiership that sparked a pro-Hunters crowd at Suncorp Stadium, as well as an adoring nation, into long celebrations.
PNGRFL Chairman Sandis Tsaka said the signing of the new participation agreement was a great outcome for the game in PNG.
“On behalf of the PNG Hunters, the PNGRFL and our rugby league family in PNG and Queensland, I acknowledge the support and partnership of the QRL in ensuring the continued participation of the PNG Hunters in the Intrust Super Cup for the next four years,” Tsaka said.
“The PNG Hunters’ participation in the Intrust Super Cup has provided great impetus for the growth and development of rugby league in PNG and enabled greater opportunities for our players to have a sustained international pathway.”
He said the Hunters have performed exceptionally well over the past five years, but it had not been easy.
“The costs and logistics of managing the team and building a successful football club has been massive,” Tsaka said.
“However, we have learnt from the experiences of the past five years and are better prepared to take on the challenges now.”
He said the PNGRFL and the QRL were committed to working together to ensure the sustainability of the Hunters over the next four years.
Tsaka acknowledged the support of naming rights sponsor, SP Brewery, the Government of PNG and the many corporate partners who have supported and continue to support the team.
“Without the generous support of these entities, the PNG Hunters would not have had the success and impact it has had both in PNG and internationally,” Tsaka stated.
He said the PNGRFL again looks forward to welcoming visiting Intrust Super Cup teams to PNG.
“We boast one of the best stadiums in the competition and teams travelling over have enjoyed the facilities and crowds in Port Moresby,” Tsaka said.
“Just last week, we signed a new accommodation partner to upgrade their accommodation and the environment and facilities they will have access to.”
The PNG Hunters open their 2019 Intrust Super Cup campaign with an away match against the Tweed Heads Seagulls on March 10.
Their first home game at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby is on the following week on March 17 against Northern Pride.
(QRL Managing Director, Robert Moore, QRL Chairman, Bruce Hatcher with PNGRFL Chairman, Sandis Tsaka and PNGRFL CEO, Reatau Rau at today's Participation Agreement signing in Brisbane, Australia)