Sport: PNG women to make international rugby league debut

10:35 am on 23 September 2017

The Papua New Guinea Orchids will make their international rugby league debut against reigning women's world champions Australia in Port Moresby this afternoon.

Despite being the national sport in PNG, the women's game has previously taken a back-seat to that of their male counterparts.

The PNG Orchids and PM's 13 coach and captains.

The PNG Orchids and PM's 13 coach and captains. Photo: RNZI/Melvin Levongo

But with the Orchids competing in the Women's Rugby League World Cup in November, coach Dennis Miall said it's great to finally be up and running.

"We are very humbled by this getting the team selected. It's been a long road for PNG Rugby League and for all the women in this country. After so many years we are very happy and privileged to have the support of Oil Search to make it possible for PNG to have a women's team in rugby league".

Orchids captain Cathy Neap is excited by the prospect of facing the world's number one ranked team.

"It means a lot to all the girls here in Papua New Guinea who plays rugby league. The girls are ready to take on this journey and it's a big challenge to all of us, because it's going to be the first ever international game played, and we are ready for it".

Chance for locals

Following the women's international, PNG will take on Australia in the annual Prime Minister's 13 clash at the National Football Stadium.

With the Hunters squad in Brisbane for the Intrust Super Cup final, co-coach Steven Nightingale said it's a chance for the players from the local Digicel Cup competition to impress against top-level NRL stars.

"It's more of an opportunity to showcase what our local league, our Digicel Cup level, has. We think it's very strong and if we can get more exposure to all our boys it's going to be better for the Hunters, better for the Kumuls and better for the country as a whole".

The Australian Prime Minister's 13 are on a nine-match winning streak in PNG and racked up 58 unanswered points in the same fixture 12 months ago.

But head coach Mal Meninga, a former PNG Kumuls boss, said they're not taking anything for granted.

"It's a genuine trial for up, for the players for the upcoming Rugby League World Cup, so we picked our strongest available side. We talk about obviously the players still want to be playing for their clubs in the (NRL) finals but the calibre of the players like Aaron (Woods) and the team we brought up last year it's out of respect for the green and gold jersey and out of respect for this game (against PNG). We bring our best side and the guys I know are real keen and play to the best of their ability on Saturday because they want to make the national side down the track".

The Australian line-up includes a glut of Kangaroos internationals, including front-rowers Aaron Woods and Andrew Fifita, five eighth James Maloney and centre Josh Dugan.

The Australian PM's 13 have also conducted coaching clinics during their time in Port Moresby.

The Australian PM's 13 have also conducted coaching clinics during their time in Port Moresby. Photo: RNZI/Melvin Levongo