THE Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) has approved the relocation of the SP Hunters to Australia to compete in the Queensland Intrust Super Cup next season.
PNGRFL chairman Sandis Tsaka said in a statement yesterday that he had advised Queensland Rugby League (QRL) chairman Bruce Hatcher of the decision.
“PNGRFL had been directed by the QRL to consider the option of relocating the Hunters to Australia for next season,” he said.
“This was based on advice from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Queensland Health Department that international travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic would be maintained next year.”
Tsaka said the advice was taken into consideration prior to making the decision which would ensure the Hunters’ participation in the second-tier rugby league competition.
“The QRL advice was that the Hunters risked losing their right to participate in the Intrust Super Cup,” he said.
“PNGRFL was concerned about the long-term risk to PNG’s credibility to bid for future QRL, National Rugby League and/or international rugby league competitions if the club did not participate next season.
“The PNG LNG Kumuls participation and performance at next year’s Rugby League World Cup would also be seriously affected.”
Tsaka said Prime Minister and Sports Minister James Marape had publicly pledged the Government’s support for the Hunters’ relocation.
“PNGRFL acknowledges and appreciates the prime minister and his Government’s commitment for the Hunters to be based in Australia next year,” he said.
Tsaka said in planning for the relocation, PNGRFL and the QRL had undertaken a review of the club’s operations over the last few months to ensure efficiency and sustainability in its management and operations. “As part of this process, the club been restructured to be established as a separate incorporated association with its own independent governance and management structure,” he said.
“PNGRFL has nominated a new interim board comprising Stan Joyce (chairman), ambassador Robert Aisi, Frank Bouraga, Moses Williams, Ruth Waram (independent directors) and the PNGRFL chief executive as an ex-officio member.
“We have confidence that the new board and their management will be able to work with all our existing partners and reach out to new and potential partners to develop a football and business plan that builds on the legacy and success of the Hunters programme to ensure the continued commercial viability and success of the club into the future.”
Tsaka said whilst the decision had been made to relocate, “we realise there is still a lot of work to be done in PNG and Australia to ensure the team’s relocation is smooth and without any major issues”.
He extended PNGRFL’s gratitude to naming-rights sponsors SP Brewery and platinum sponsors PNG LNG for their continued support for next season.
“We are continuing discussions with the Hunters’ other existing partners who have not yet committed to next season and other potential new partners,” Tsaka said.
He said Hunters coach Matthew Church had submitted a programme for pre-season training which was due to start next month.
“Church will make these announcements, including the train-on squad, within the next week or so,” Tsaka said.
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