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  • Hunters success kick starts rugby league frenzy in PNG
  • How PNG and Fiji could win way into NRL
  • Mead keen on PNG return
  • PNG Orchids squad named
  • Aitken blow for Bravehearts

Hunters success kick starts rugby league frenzy in PNG
The PNG Hunters created history by winning the Queensland Cup minor premiership last weekend and if the Kumuls can build on their success at the Rugby League World Cup it will inevitably revive calls for the nation to have its own NRL team.

With Papua New Guinea hosting their three World Cup pool matches against USA, Ireland and Wales, the country is set to be gripped by rugby league fever for at least three weeks as the Kumuls have played just Test on home soil - against Tonga in 2014 - in eight years.

However, the festivities have started early after the Hunters claimed their first silverware by beating Wynnum Manly 28-22 before a crowd of more than 12,000 at Oil Search National Football Stadium on Sunday to secure the Queensland Cup minor premiership with a game in hand.

The significance of the achievement for the only country in the world with rugby league as the national sport was demonstrated by PNG Prime-Minister Peter O’Neill, who attended with other government ministers, presenting the minor premiership trophy and medals to the Hunters players.

The Hunters now expect to host a home finals match and if they can win the Queensland Cup premiership to secure a place in the National State Championship play-off against the NSW Cup winners on NRL grand final day, the appetite for more top-level games will grow.

The Australian Prime Ministers XIII will meet the Kumuls in a double-header with the Jillarroos and PNG’s newly named women’s team, the Orchids, in Port Moresby on September 23, with the three World Cup matches to be played on October 28, November 5 and November 12.

A push for an NRL team based in PNG led to the Hunters joining the Queensland Cup in 2014, while more recently the talk has been about hosting NRL games – or even a State of Origin match – at the 25,000 seat Oil Search National Football Stadium.

How PNG and Fiji could win way into NRL
While there is no shortage of new areas wanting to join the NRL and most people consider there to be too many teams in Sydney expansion of the competition is seemingly off the agenda – at least until 2023 when the current television deal expires.

But what if the NRL adopted the approach of England’s Rugby Football League and introduced a mechanism for promotion and relegation, such as the Qualifiers, in which the bottom four Super League teams and top four Championship teams play off for places in the following season’s competitions.

Under that model, the bottom four NRL clubs – currently NZ Warriors, Gold Coast Titans, Wests Tigers and Newcastle Knights - would be vying for their places in next year’s competition against the likes of the PNG Hunters and NSW Cup minor premiers Wyong, who are based on the Central Coast.

With Fiji and Perth wanting to enter teams in the NSW Cup it could be a way to enable teams from expansion areas to win their way into the NRL, while there would be the real possibility of a second Brisbane team given the likes of Easts, Redcliffe and Ipswich play in the Queensland Cup.

The alternative is for clubs like North Sydney Bears to gain an NRL licence by buying the Titans or Warriors, who are both for sale.

If the RFL model is too complex, the NRL could go straight to the Million Pound Game - played between the teams finishing fourth and fifth in the Qualifiers for the final Super League place – and pit the winner of the National State Championship against the team finishing with the wooden spoon.

Mead keen on PNG return
Brisbane back David Mead has expressed his excitement about playing in PNG for a Kumuls side set to include South Sydney fullback Alex Johnson, the NRL’s leading tryscorer, and Cronulla hooker James Segayaro.

Mead, who played in the Wynnum Manly Seagulls team which lost to the Hunters last Sunday, told reporters it was the first time he had played in PNG since 2009 and he was impressed by improvements at the new look National Football Stadium.

 “The field is a lot better than in 2009 when I last played here in the Pacific Cup and there is a big difference in the facilities as well,” Mead said.

“It was good to be back even though I was in the opposition team to hear the crowd every time I got the ball just made me more excited to wear the Kumuls jumper.”

Johnson, who has a PNG grandmother, has put his hand up to play for the Kumuls, while Segayaro wants to again represent his country of birth after a falling out with officials in 2015 following the death of his father.

Segayaro has played just one Test for PNG in 2011 but Kumuls coach Michael Marum said he would be welcomed back with open arms and was a contender for the captaincy with Mead and Canterbury forward Rod Griffin.

“Obviously he’s got a lot of family back here which have had influence on him about representing PNG,” Marum told the Cairns Post. “His dad was a former Kumuls player and he is going to go down in history as the first player to follow his dad’s footsteps.

“He’s definitely a contender for the captaincy with David Mead and Rod Griffin.”

PNG Orchids squad named
A nationwide survey helped determine the name unveiled last week for the PNG women’s team, who will play their first Test match against the Jillaroos in Port Moresby ahead of the World Cup at Cronulla’s Southern Cross Group Stadium.

PNGRFL chairman Sandis Tsaka said the name Orchids was chosen as it reflected an indigenous symbol that was identifiable with the country’s female population.

A 30-strong train-on squad was also named after the Confederate National Championships in Lae to prepare for the match against the Jillaroos and the Women’s World Cup.

Barbara Selsel (Highlands), Carol Humeu (Southern), Cathy Neap (Southern), Elvina Aaron (Southern), Freda Waula (Southern), Grace Mark (Northern), Janet Michael (Southern), Joan Kuman (Southern), Maima Wae (Southern), Margaret Papo (Highlands), Martha Karl (Northern), Naomi Kaupa (Southern), Shirley Joe (Northern), Akosita Baru (Northern), Anna Oiufa (Highlands), Brenda Goro (Southern), Christy Roulage (Highlands), Della Audama (Southern), Elava Turpa (NGI), Gloria Kaupa (Highlands), Helen Abau (Southern), Jacobeth Ware (Northern), Shirley Jerry (Highlands), Vero Waula (Southern).

Shadow players: Anas Lingiliket (NGI), Atua Arek (Northern), Barbra Andrew (Northern), Fay Sogavo (Highlands), Mala Mark (Highlands), Melisa James (Highlands). Coach: Dennis Miall.

Aitken blow for Bravehearts
Scotland have suffered a blow for the World Cup, with centre Euan Aitken set to undergo shoulder surgery that is expected to rule him out of the tournament.

Aitken made his return from a shoulder injury in St George Illawarra’s loss to Brisbane last Friday night but suffered a season-ending dislocation.

“I met up with the surgeon in Melbourne and in Sydney and got a couple of opinions on what the best option was,” Aitken told nrl.com.

“They said the worst I could do was pop it out again and that’s why I’ve worked hard in rehab for the last four weeks trying to get it strong enough and put my hand up this week to play footy.”

The loss of Aitken is offset by the emergence of South Sydney teenager Campbell Graham, while North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote is set to return from an ankle injury.

Source: http://www.rlwc2017.com/
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