NRL’s $600m plan to add PNG expansion team by 2027
October 29, 2023
Peter V’landys and the NRL have begun looking into making Papua New Guinea the league’s 18th franchise after the Australian Government flagged it was prepared to bankroll the expansion with a $600 million pay package.
The sport’s top powerbrokers want to add an eighteenth team to the competition by the 2027 season, if not even a year earlier than that, and PNG shapes as the likeliest winners.
“Yes, we’re having expansion talks right now,” V’landys said. “We’re analysing the data as we speak and we’re working on the strategy for an 18th team in the NRL We’re looking at 2027, but possibly earlier in 2026, if we can put the pathways in and implement the necessary programs with the support of the government.”
PNG’s potential NRL licence would see it become a government-backed project played using Papua New Guinea colours, with matches played in PNG and Australia.
The operation would have a permanent base on Australian soil and links to PNG.
V’landys has already suggested the most likely setup would be a headquarters founded in far north Queensland where the team would live and train before taking 90-minute flights to PNG to play matches. Cairns is the most likely choice for such a venture, The Sporting Base understands, with Barlow Park an option for several games.
Beyond games played at the Cairns arena (which is getting a $40 million upgrade for the Olympics), the PNG squad would also play at the 15,000-capacity stadium in Port Moresby.
“I am very supportive of an 18th NRL team in PNG,” Albanese told News Corp on Saturday.
“This is a game changer for the relationship with PNG. We’re definitely behind the NRL bid and, importantly, Prime Minister [James] Murape is very much behind an NRL team. Having PNG participate in the NRL, I can’t think of any better way to get that ongoing relationship and engagement between our two countries.”
The $600 million would be broken up into $60 million a year for a decade.
Albanese added: “The support there [in PNG] is fanatical. If you develop a pathway for young rising players to come through, Papua New Guinea is a potential powerhouse in global rugby league.”