The Papua New Guinea national rugby league team represents Papua New Guinea internationally in the sport of rugby league football.
In Papua New Guinea, Rugby league is highly popular and is regarded as the country’s national sport. The national side are known as the Kumuls (bird of paradise in Tok Pisin). Many Papua New Guinean players have left the country in order to pursue professional rugby league careers in Great Britain and Australia. A team representing Papua New Guinea (generally made up of a mixture of locally based players and International Players) plays an Australian Prime Minister's XIII in an annual match. The Australian side consists mostly of developing players from the premier competition the National Rugby League (NRL).
Papua New Guinea Rugby League History and Overview
Papua New Guinea first came into contact during the gold rush in the 1930s through Australian miners. Australian soldiers stationed in the country during and after the Second World War reintroduced the sport and in 1949 and the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League was founded. It quickly became a popular spectator sport. During the 1960s rugby league grew to be the clear national sport of the country. Despite being the most popular spectator sport, rugby league was mainly played by Australians and New Zealanders at this time. It wasn't until over the following decade did participation numbers grow to reflect spectator numbers.
The governing body for rugby league in Papua New Guinea became members of the Rugby League International Federation in 1974 and the national team's first ever Test match was a 40-12 home defeat by Great Britain a year later. They first competed in the Rugby League World Cup in the 1985-89 competition. In a sign of the RLIF growing confidence in the international game, Papua New Guinea were invited to participate in the newly formatted World Cups of (1986 - 1988) and (1989 - 1992). Papua New Guinea did not disappoint with a shock victory over New Zealand 24 - 22 in Port Moresby in 1986. In the 1995 World Cup Papua New Guinea were grouped with New Zealand and Tonga. The first match against Tonga went down to the wire with the final score locked at 28 all. The Kumuls played the Kiwis in their final pool game and put in a respectable performance before eventually running out of steam losing 22 - 6.
In the 2000 World Cup PNG made history by finishing top of their pool and qualifying for the quarter finals for the first time. Led by Adrian Lam PNG went on to lose the game against Wales but had showed the rest of the rugby league world how far they had progressed. When the players returned to PNG they were greeted by thousands of PNG fans. Rugby League in PNG had come of age. PNG were automatic qualifiers for the 2008 World Cup. They were grouped with Australia, New Zealand and England in the super pool. PNG nearly upset England in the first match of the Pool but eventually went down 32 - 22. The Kumuls also preformed well against Kiwis and Kangaroos scoring a try in each game against there much fancied opponents. All in all Papua New Guinea showed pride and passion for the jersey and made another statement to the NRL regarding the ongoing battle to have a Port Moresby team included in the NRL. Adrian Lam also called for more international games for Papua New Guinea to help with the ongoing development of Kumuls.
During the 2008 World Cup, PNGRL put forward a proposal to have a PNG based team enter the NRL by 2015. The plan is to have the proposed team enter into the QLD Cup by 2010. PNG will need to rally local businesses and the government to assist in the re-development of Port Moresby Oval to meet NRL standards. Elements of the Australian Government have backed the proposal which would give the only nation to claim Rugby League as there number one national sport a huge boost at local and international levels. The PNG government are willing to put 20 million dollars towards a new stadium and their NRL ambitions. In early 2009 Papua New Guinea were ranked 6th in World seedings by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF).
Papua New Guinea defeated Tonga and the Cook Islands to win the 2009 Pacific Cup competition. On the back of this win Papua New Guinea secured a place in the 2010 Four Nations tournament and lost to England, New Zealand and Australia. Papua New Guinea has qualified for 2013 World cup in England.