A new Pacific Island rugby league team based in New Caledonia and Vanuatu is targeting a place in an expanded Intrust Super Cup (ISC) competition.
The Pacifique Treize Rugby League bid was officially launched this week and hopes to follow in the footsteps of the Papua New Guinea Hunters, who have been playing in the Queensland Cup since 2014.
The 2020 ISC season was cancelled in March due to Covid-19 but the group behind the Pacifique Treize bid say their aim is to join the competition in 2023.
The six-member steering committee, which included representatives from the French Pacific, Australia and Vanuatu, had spent the past 12 months investigating the feasibility of the bid.
"We are looking forward to the engagement process with the Intrust Super Cup officials and other relevant stakeholders to meet the guidelines required for entry," said Pacifique Treize Communications Director, Laurent Garnier.
"We believe in this project and we are confident of our success. This will be a real advancement for the competition as we seek to bring a new, interesting product for the fans and we hope to engage with the Australian South Sea Islander (ASSI) community in Queensland so that we can create a great atmosphere for the fans at the away games as well as the home ones."
Merci @LukeMcGarry7 & @7NewsSC pour l’annonce de notre candidature pour rejoindre @IntrustSuperCup Nous avons hâte d’associer le plus grand nombre dans l’aventure jusqu’en 2023. #RugbyXIII #Queensland #NouvelleCaledonie #Tahiti #Vanuatu #îlesSalomon pic.twitter.com/OGdCIZIMus— Pacifique Treize (@pacifiquexiii) May 7, 2020
The Pacifique Treize bid planned to establish a close relationship with Vanuatu Rugby League and would look to play 10 home games in Noumea and two in Port Vila if they were successful in gaining entry into the ISC.
"We are very supportive of the Pacifique Treize bid and have been consulted and engaged throughout the entire process by the bid team," said the acting Vanuatu Rugby League President Antonio Korikalo.
"The Pacifique Treize bid aligns with our objectives, particularly to provide pathway opportunities for talented ni-Vanuatu into high performance programs and into semi-professional and professional playing opportunities and showcasing top level rugby league in Vanuatu.
"We are currently working on a partnership agreement to formalise our relationship and how we will jointly deliver VRL / Pacifique Treize activities in Vanuatu moving forward".
The Noumea-based bid hoped that establishing an elite Intrust Super Cup side would also help to boost the development of rugby league throughout French speaking Pacific territories including New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, French Polynesia and Vanuatu, which have a combined population of almost 800,000.
The Queensland Rugby League (QRL) had previously stated their desire to expand the competition from 14 teams to 16 by 2023 and discussions with the Pacifique Treize steering committee had been ongoing since mid-2019.
"As the competition grows to 16 teams, we are confident that we can provide the added value that the league is seeking," Laurent Garnier said.
Pacifique Treize said they had taken inspiration from the success of PNG Hunters, who won their maiden Queensland Cup title in 2017, as well as the rise of the Toronto Wolfpack from a non-rugby league city in Canada to a place in the Super League.
The bid is also watching the progression of the Kaiviti Silktails from Fiji, who made their debut in the third tier of the New South Wales Rugby League system earlier this year.
Supporters are encouraged "register as a fan" at www.pacifique13.com to be a part of the bid journey going forward, including a competition to select the mascot and team name later this year.