‘Don’t want this NRL team’: Leisel Jones exposes $600m PNG truth

An 18th NRL team in Papua New Guinea appears to be a mere formality at this point, but Australian swimming legend Leisel Jones questions whether our northern neighbors even want a move.

The NRL is eyeing a Papua New Guinea team from August 2023 after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urged the country to join the league as its 18th team and promised to invest money in making the move viable for the competition.

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Last week, 2GB’s Ben Fordham revealed that it is expected to reach $600 million over 10 years, with nearly half of the $600 million earmarked for pathways and programs in the Pacific region.

Albanese has long talked about how “soft diplomacy” could help slow China’s growing influence in the Pacific region.

Fordham said the “deal is done,” despite security and logistical concerns that remain.

But if we talk further Rush Hour with Leisel Jones, Liam and Dobb on Monday night, Jones said there could be an even bigger problem for the PNG bid.

“I just got back from Port Moresby yesterday, I had a three-day trip to PNG and I’ve heard a lot about the NRL team they’ve put together,” Jones said.

“From what I’ve heard on the ground and spoken to a lot of people in PNG, I don’t think they want an NRL team there.

“I was of the opinion that this would be a great way to build a relationship with PNG and that it would be a great result. I don’t think that’s the case.

“I’ve heard a lot that ‘it’s just lip service’, that the Australian government has decided very quickly that they want to have this team in Australia for security reasons, but they really haven’t thought it through.

“There are a lot of statistics in PNG that the unemployment rate is 80 per cent, that’s a big problem. Children go through school and finish it in the sixth year, which is their level of education.

“An NRL team could be an embarrassment to the country because they don’t have any feeder routes. There’s no NRL through the schools, no PE because they finish in sixth year.

“So the Australian government is funding $600 million to invest in PNG, yes, that’s to ensure security, of course. But the people of PNG, I don’t think they want this NRL team because I don’t think they’ll be proud of the result.”

Co-host Ben Dobbin said he’s heard similar things from friends with businesses in the region.

He added that players suggest not taking their families “because they are afraid to move their families out of Australia, it’s a safety concern, so players will leave their families and just play and take money”.

“I don’t necessarily believe it’s over the line like people do.”

Papua New Guinea is lucky to be the only country in the world where rugby league is the national sport.

Wild scenes generally engulf Port Moresby every season when Premier XIII teams play in the country.

Just this week, Broncos star Adam Reynolds, Delouise Hoeter and Ryan James visited the country, leaving children in tears.

Speaking on Fox League NRL Tonight, Matt Russell said: “The passion is not the problem – the logistics and the unanimous support, that could be the problem.”

Mark Carroll said the vision was “absolutely brilliant”. However, he admitted that the problems were “on the security side”.

On SEN last week, Corey Parker added that recruitment would be an issue after ARL commission chairman Peter V’landys revealed the players would be based in PNG rather than North Queensland as previously an option.

“We’re supposed to live in a compound of some sort, so I thought the players would be based out of Cairns and spend some time in PNG, both playing and training at various levels, but it might not be like that going forward,” Parker said.

“It will be extremely difficult (to recruit players).

“There should be some sort of monetary compensation for the players to live in PNG.”

Current NRL clubs have also reportedly called for a $170 million funding boost, including a $3.5 million lump sum to support the bid, as well as an additional $2 million for five seasons after PNG enters the competition.

V’landys told News Corp: “It’s definitely too early. At first, it hasn’t gone to the cabinet and our committee hasn’t signed it, so there is no agreement.

“During the Magic Round there were discussions but every party would have to come back again so nothing concrete at this stage.

“I was surprised at how that speculation started because it certainly didn’t come from the NRL, if I do say so myself.”

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