Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea will host matches in new Pacific Championships featuring men’s and women’s teams from seven nations at the end of the season.
Kicking off with the Kangaroos hosting Toa Samoa and the Jillaroos playing the Kiwi Ferns in re-matches of last November’s World Cup finals, the Pacific Championships will also include Cook Islands, Fiji Papua New Guinea and Tonga.
The Australian Rugby League Commission announced details of the Pacific Championships to be played in 2023 and 2024 at a launch in Brisbane attended by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for the Pacific, Pat Conroy.
The 2023 Pacific Championships schedule is:
Week One – October 14-15
Australia v Samoa (men) and Australia v New Zealand (women) at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
PNG v Cook Islands (men) and Samoa v Fiji (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
Week Two – October 21-22
New Zealand v Samoa (men) and New Zealand v Tonga (women) at Eden Park, Auckland
Fiji v Cook Islands (men) and PNG v Cook Islands (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
Week Three – October 28-29
Australia v New Zealand (men and women) at AAMI Park, Melbourne
PNG v Fiji (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
Week Four – November 4-5
The Final of the men’s Pacific Cup tournament on November 4 in Hamilton, New Zealand
The Final of the men’s Pacific Bowl tournament on November 5 at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
The ARLC also announced a partnership with the Australian government in order to promote and develop rugby league in the Pacific through the championships.
The Albanese government will partner with the NRL to ensure Pacific Championships matches can be played in the Pacific, enabling players to play in front of their loyal local fans.
“The Commission’s focus on growing the international game will combine with an equally strong desire to grow rugby league in the Pacific,” ARLC Commissioner Kate Jones said.
“I’d like to thank Prime Minister the Hon Anthony Albanese for his personal support of rugby league in the Pacific, alongside the Hon Pat Conroy, the Federal Minister for International Development and the Pacific, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The 2023 Pacific Championships will showcase the best of international Rugby League in matches across three countries. Importantly, the international matches will be highlighted by both men’s and women’s matches.
“The southern hemisphere tournaments will deliver on the broader NRL Pacific Strategy objectives – to create pathways for aspiring athletes, coaches, referees and administrators from the Pacific along with further growing international rugby league.”
The partnership with the Australian government will facilitate the development of high-performance pathways for Pacific athletes, coaches, referees and administrators, and continue to build a strong sports economy in the region.
“The Pacific Championships mark the beginning of an exciting new phase of international rugby league competition in the Pacific for both women and men,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.
“Geography makes us neighbours, but through sport we build strong and lasting ties across the Pacific family.”
Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, added: “Given around half the players in the NRL are of Pasifika heritage, and our shared love of sport, this competition will bring people from across the Pacific even closer together.
“The Championships will provide a new opportunity for athletes in the Pacific to play and develop professionally, and will inspire a generation of girls and boys across our region.”
NZRL CEO Greg Peters said: “To bring the best players in the world back home to play in front of their communities is special.
“International rugby league is in an exciting new era, and we are privileged in New Zealand to witness first-hand how much this game means to our Māori and Pasifika communities.
“Having the Pacific Championships locked in for the next two years is extremely exciting and undoubtedly will inspire the next generation of world-class players from all nations.
“No other code can produce such celebrations of culture and passion; the Eden Park and Waikato atmospheres will be unmissable.”
The Kiwis will face Samoa at Eden Park, igniting a new Pacific rivalry hot off last year’s World Cup momentum, while the Kiwi Ferns will line up against Tonga, and an NZ Kiwi A team will assemble for the first time in 17 years.
Peters said that thanks to the current depth of the New Zealand talent pool, the NZ Kiwis A team will consist of current and future Kiwi-committed NRL stars who will take on a Tonga A team as the opening match of the rugby league triple-header.
“How special to bring the best players in the world back home to play in front of their communities,” said Peters.
“We’re excited to work with Samoa to bring their rugby league heroes back home and unite fans across New Zealand and the Pacific.”
The 2023 Pacific Championships is a two-tiered competition with six men’s teams and seven women’s teams taking part in the tournament across two pools.
Waikato’s FMG Stadium will host the Pacific Cup grand final on November 4th.
“I firmly believe the triple-header and Waikato final will be the biggest international rugby league events on home soil since the 2017 World Cup,” Peters said.
Hamilton City Council’s General Manager of Venues, Tourism and Major Events, Sean Murray says, “We’re working hard to deliver an exceptional Pacific Championship Final at FMG Stadium Waikato. The team looks forward to passionate fans and the exposure this game will bring to our city and region.”