Papua New Guinea Rugby League
Papua New Guinea Rugby League


The PNG RL Foundations National Elite U16 & U18 teams returned home after a successfulInternational tour. The 8-day tour saw the PNG teams play 4 matches in 6 days against top quality Club and Schoolboy teams in Brisbane. The U16’s team won 2 matches out of their 4 with the U18 winning 3 of their 4 tour matches.

Apart from the matches the players also furthered their rugby league education with visits to watch the Broncos and the Qld Origin teams train, tour of the Broncos training facility, talks by development staff and attending Wednesday nights State of Origin match at Suncorp Stadium.

PNG Rugby League Foundation CEO Brad Tassell said it was a tough initiation for the players but the tour was to give the players a crash course in rugby league and to test themselves against some of the best talent in Queensland and the country;

“We were exceptionally proud of the players. Their behaviour, attitude and discipline both on and off the field was exceptional. It’s about changing the mindset of how they approach their rugby league and to give them the right attitude, discipline and approach. We believe the lessons they learn and the discipline taught will not only improve them as footballers but also as young men. We also wanted to prove that if you give the youth in PNG a structured program that they can excel in that they don’t have to move to Australia at an early age to make it in Rugby League. There is still a long way to go but we are seeing more and more talented players coming through each year, who understand what is required of them. In a few years these kids will be the future Kumuls and they will already have the right attitude and know the basics making Mal and Adrian’s job a lot easier. This is part of a long-term plan to have a structured pathway right from schoolboys to the top level to place PNG firmly in place as one of the premier rugby league nations in the world.”

Tassell said he was particularly proud of the U16’s performances, considering it was the first year for the majority of the squad in the program;

“Most of the U16 players are turning 15 this year and there are only 2 players left from last years squad, so it was a real learning experience and an eye opener for the players. They played against older and much bigger opposition but won 2 matches and only lost their other 2 matches by 10 points or less so they were incredibly competitive. Imagine what these kids can do after 2 or 3 years in the program”

Tassel also added that the performances were even more exceptional when you compare preparations;

“While our program is achieving great results you have to remember we are playing against teams who have played and trained together basically every day since 11 or 12 years old. Our players have had 2 elite camps and are spread across the nation. The tour was the first matches they have EVER played together so that is testament I believe to how good our PNG youth are and can be when given this type of opportunity.”

Tassell said the performances of the U18 were extraordinary and is excited about the future of the players;

“Our U18’s were dominant throughout the tour. Most have been in the program from 3 years now and you can see the difference it makes. The Redcliffe game was a blow out but it was the 4th game in six days and the U18’s played some very big and physical teams so they were probably exhausted by the last match. Despite that the game was only 6-0 at half time but the boys copped 10 penalties against them in the second half and only had the ball for 2 sets of six. Redcliffe are state champions and the second best club team in Australia so you cant give them that much ball and expect to hold them out.”

Tassell said the U18’s third match against the QLD based PNG representatives side last Sunday after the Easts vs. Mackay State League match was the highlight of the tour;

“The boys were really up for that match and it was an exceptionally entertaining game of rugby league. Our boys were up against 19 & 20 year olds where were big tough and physical, however we showed amazing discipline, entertaining attack and strong and physical defence. Wellington Albert put on some massive shots in defence and scored two tries leading from the front while Patrick Inapero was unstoppable with his footwork running from dummy half. There were talent scouts at the game and I can tell you they were writing down names and enquiring about the players.”

Tassell said he has been approached by Talent Scouts and Player Agents, but wanted to ensure the kids and families were fully informed about how the system works and that the players if offered any scholarships or contracts were looked after;

“It’s important the players welfare comes first and that we don’t just jump at the first offer. It has to be right for the players and families and they have to be looked after to ensure they have the best chance of succeeding. Every player who comes through the program and succeeds gives the next 14 or 15 year old the chance to do the same. Without this program these kids would never have had this opportunity to be exposed to scouts in Australia. The scouts were blown away buy the performances particularly of the U18 players. Imagine how good they could be under a full time Rugby League structure? This could open up the door to more clubs and rugby league schools looking at PNG for talent instead of other pacific nations and the opportunity for PNG Rugby League youth is now realistic and attainable.”

It is highly likely that one (1) player will earn an NRL contract in the next few months while several other players will be given an opportunity for scholarships with schools and/or U20 playing contracts for next year.

Tassell said this was an amazing result from one tour:

“It just shows what I have always believed about the enormous amount of talent in this nation – all it needs is a pathway and for PNG youth to be given an opportunity to show what they can do. I am excited about the contacts and the doors that have been opened as a result of the tour.”

Tassell also paid special tribute to the Minister for Sport Justin Tkatchenko:

“The Minister believes in the youth of PNG and that they can excel through sport. The entire tour was funded through the Sports Enhancement fund and the kids have repaid the faith shown in them by the Minister 10 fold. Without the funding the tour could not have happened and the kids would not have the opportunity in front of them that they now have. He is an amazing man who understands that this program is vital to the youth of the Nation and the future of Rugby League in this country. On behalf of the players and management from the tour we sincerely thank the Minister for his wonderful support.”

He also appealed to the business community to assist in funding the program long-term:

“We now have a pathway and we now have kids who have come through and are on the cusp of rugby league careers. We now need to ensure that the program is here long-term for the next batch of youth coming through to follow the pathway blazed by the current players. The national program costs in excess of K1.2million per year to deliver and we need to fund this through sponsorship. It’s a massive national program and a PNG company can be responsible for developing the first players through the program to go onto the NRL and represent their nation.”

U16 vs. Wavell High Lost 24 to 14
U16 vs. Ipswich High Won 22 to 6
U16 vs. PNG QLD U17 Lost 24 to 10
U16 vs. Redcliffe Won 22 to 14
U18 vs. St Brendans Won 62 to 12
U18 vs. Ipswich High Won 26 to 6
U18 vs. QLD PNG U19 Won 36 to 14
U18 vs. Recliffe Lost 42 to 0