Australia Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant and 2017 Rugby League World Cup chairman, Dr George Peponis OAM were in Port Moresby last weekend to watch the 2017 RLWC second Pool C match between PNG LNG Kumuls and Ireland.
“The near 15,000 crowd made for an exhilarating experience that attests to the significance of international rugby league in PNG,” says Grant.
Dr Peponis, who was on his first visit to PNG and a rugby league game here, said: “It was an unforgettable experience.
“The crowd were passionate and showcased their pride and showcased their pride in the game and their country to millions of people around the world.”
He said PNG is the only country that has rugby league as its national sport and the people should be proud of the Government for hosting the tournament.
“The stadium is a first class venue and every one of the players and coaching staff have made comment of the facilities,” Dr Peponis said.
“By successfully hosting three Rugby League World Cup matches, PNG has proven to the world that they are capable of hosting major sporting tournaments.”
Dr Peponis said his 2017 RLWC CEO Andrew Hill, who is the new Canterbury Bulldogs CEO, has begun looking into membership opportunities in PNG.
“I know the new CEO of the Bulldogs has already started to look at membership opportunities and potential opportunities for the club to have a relationship with PNG Rugby League in future years,” Dr Peponis, a former Bulldogs player himself, commented.
PNGRFL chairman Sandis Tsaka said he was humbled by their presence.
“On behalf of every Papua New Guinean, I thank you both for your inspiring comments,” Tsaka said.
“We have proven to the RL world that PNG is ready to host international games and our people will support this.”
Tsaka said RLIF chairman Nigel Wood of England will be in Port Moresby this weekend for the PNG vs USA final pool game.
After the game last Sunday, a dinner was hosted in which PNG Sports Vice-Minister Wesley Raminai, Tsaka, PNGRFL CEO Reatau Rau, Oil Search managing director Peter Botten, New Zealand RL board member John Bishop, QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher and QRL CEO Rob Moore were among the invited guests.
Grant, who is also deputy chairman of Rugby League International Federation (RLIF), said it was a memorable experience to join representatives of the three host nations of RLWC 2017 – PNG, New Zealand and Australia – together with representatives of the RLWC 2017 organising committee over dinner following PNG’s exciting and close win over a brave Ireland.
From Left (Front Row) – Wesley Raminai (PNG Sports Vice-Minister), Sandis Tsaka (PNGRFL chairman), Patricia Hatcher, Helen Wood Grant (Director of Men of League Foundation), Miho Takaishi Haigh, Reatau Rau (PNGRFL CEO), Nigel Sweeney (manager, Oil Search Corporate Projects)
L-R (Back Row) – John Bishop (NZ RL Board Member), Robert Moore (QRL CEO), John Grant (ARLC Chairman), Geoff Haigh (Stanley Hotel General Manager), Dr George Peponis (Chairman 2017 RLWC), David O’Farrell (Ireland official)