The PNG Hunters have announced a strategic pathways partnership with the Dolphins NRL franchise that will include participation in a full NRL pre-season for four young Papua New Guinean players.
This agreement will provide a genuine pathway for Papua New Guinean rugby league players beginning in the Digicel Cup, through to the Hunters and right into an NRL system.
The partnership is in alignment with the Hunters’ strategic plan to develop more Papua New Guinean players into the NRL competition by 2025.
Under the agreement, four Hunters’ players will attend a full pre-season with the Dolphins NRL squad, starting in 2023.
Of those four players, two will be selected by the Dolphins to stay on and train with their NRL squad for the remainder of the season.
If not selected to play for the Dolphins NRL side, those players will come back and play for the Hunters in the 2023 QRL’s Hostplus Cup.
PNG Hunters’ CEO Scott Barker said the partnership was a huge opportunity to develop the talents of Papua New Guinean players to NRL levels.
“I am extremely thankful that the Dolphins have recognised the pathway the Hunters can provide,” Barker said.
“We know there is a wealth of rugby league talent and potential within Papua New Guinea, and this is the next step in our mission to introduce that talent into the NRL.
“I am very excited with this partnership and the opportunities it will bring for Papua New Guinean players.”
Hunters’ Chairman Stan Joyce CSM said the partnership was another boost towards the goal of seeing more Papua New Guinean players in the NRL.
“On behalf of the SP PNG Hunters Board and Management, I’m really pleased to see this partnership come together,” Joyce said.
“This is a big step towards creating a genuine pathway for Papua New Guinean rugby league players into the NRL, something the Hunters will continue working tirelessly towards.”
Dolphins’ chief executive Terry Reader said the Dolphins recognised the talents of Papua New Guinean players and wanted the club to play a major role in developing them.
“Through previous visits to the country, we understand how passionate the entire nation of Papua New Guinea is about the game of rugby league,” Reader said.
“Our head coach Wayne Bennett has long admired the unique talent players from Papua New Guinea possess and the way they approach the game.
“We are very pleased to offer a pathway for player development that will open up opportunities for players from that country to succeed at the highest level of the game.”