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3 days ago
Australia's Pacific Minister Duncan Kerr has backed calls for a Papua New Guinean club to enter the NRL competition.
PNG Rugby Football League officials in Sydney this week are lobbying the NRL and its clubs along with meeting Australian Rugby League representatives to develop plans for a PNG club to compete in the 2014 season.
The NRL welcomed the ambitious proposal but said there was no immediate expansion strategy.
Kerr said talk of a PNG club in the NRL was a positive sign of new found Australian PNG relations.
"Sport brings people and nations together," he said.
"I welcome these talks between the PNG Rugby League and the Australian NRL and look forward to hearing how they progress.
"Personally, I think it would be an exciting and positive step and it could only further strengthen the friendship between our two countries."
Famed ABC Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney, who captained and played in the national PNG rugby league side after PNG's Independence in 1975 said it was about time the NRL took PNG seriously.
"I'm surprised that PNG haven't broken into the NRL when you consider how successful Marcus Bai went with the Melbourne Storm and his later career in England with Leeds and Bradford," he said.
"There really is a wealth of untapped league talent in PNG," he said.
During Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's recent PNG trip he said one of the strongest links between the two countries was rugby league.
After signing the Port Moresby Declaration Rudd offered counterpart PM Michael Somare a Brisbane Broncos jersey.
While Somare quickly told Rudd he was a NSW Blues supporter there was no disagreement about the Declaration's $260,000 package supporting PNG rugby league.
The money goes to sporting facilities and for equipment such as boots, jumpers and shorts.
There was also $50,000 given to help around 2000 young players meet the registration costs for playing local football.