With the growing popularity of the SP PNG Hunters, both domestically and in Australia, the PNGRFL is now looking at broadening the scope of the franchise, with the hope of including an U20 side in the Intrust Super Cup from 2018 onwards.
As a result, the PNGRFL has made it a priority to heavily invest in schoolboy’s rugby league.
The strengthening of the schoolboy rugby platform will enable the PNGRFL to establish a strong foundation, allowing them to harvest the best crop of players, at the most elite level.
“We know the country is crying for results, and we also realise that sustaining and improving those results, we need time to invest in junior pathway programs,” said PNGRFL’s chairman, Sandis Tsaka.
The decision to invest deeper into schoolboy’s rugby, couldn’t have come at a better time for the PNGRFL amidst public outcry over violence in the sport, and the impending World Cup in 2017.
PNGRFL will now have an opportunity to develop their younger talent, amongst a more competitive pool.
“The NRL is doing away with the U20 program, and giving it to the state leagues, from 2018 onwards. PNGRFL has also advised the NRL, that we are interested in putting an U20 team,” Tsaka added.
But while PNGRFL is still in discussion with the NRL and Queensland Rugby League on the prospect of introducing an U20 Hunters team, they will have to look at tying in schoolboy’s rugby with their elite rugby program – allowing for the U16-U18 division to feed into the U20 program, and later into the Hunters and Kumuls.