The leaders of Rugby League in the Pacific met today in Auckland to agree the future direction of the international game in the region.
Chairmen and Chief Executives from Tonga, Fiji, PNG, Samoa, the Cook Islands, New Zealand together with senior NRL staff discussed a potential 2019/2020 calendar, incorporating what has previously been known as the Pacific Tests. This calendar would see all Pacific countries play each other regularly in meaningful match ups. Following the meeting, the International Federation has been asked to undertake further feasibility work ahead of a formal decision later this year.
Player welfare and the standards in camp was discussed at length and the requirement for positive leadership from all nations to ensure the wellbeing of players taking part in international matches was underlined.
Tribute was paid to the NRL for their work in establishing the Pacific Tests and their vital role in the recent success of Pacific Island nations, which has brought the international game to this exciting crossroads.
Mr. Tagaloa Fa’afouina Su’a, Chairman of the Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation said today that it is time for nations to take a more pro-active role in the development of the international game. "We are now in position for the Pacific nations to take an active role in creating our own future.”
Mr. Stan Moheloa, Chairman of Tonga National Rugby League said: "It is great to see the international calendar coming together, we have been waiting for this for a very long time. It will allow us the certainty we need to build a commercial programme.”
Mr. Greg Peters, CEO of New Zealand Rugby League said: “It was a productive and positive session, and I was encouraged by the collaborative approach everyone has taken. We have a proposal we can now take forward”
Mr Frank Puletua, NRL Senior Manager International Strategy & NRL Awards said “I am excited for the international game and we are at a pivotal point in the history of the game – especially in our region - to build on the momentum of the Pacific Tests and last years Rugby League World Cup. Since 2013 the NRL has been instrumental in growing the competitiveness of the Pacific nations through the Pacific Tests and we are supportive of the RLIF’s intention to build on that momentum. 48% of our competition is made up of players of Pacific heritage, so this is fundamentally important to the sport of rugby league in our region moving forward”
Mr. Reatau M Rau, CEO of Papua New Guinea Rugby League said “It is great to be looking forward to an improved international calendar, and we are grateful for support of the NRL without who the PNG LNG Kumals would not be in the position they are today.”
Mr. Jeremy Edwards, Southern Hemisphere General Manager for the Rugby League International Federation said "The Pacific game is in the spotlight, with Tonga and Fiji qualifying for the Semi-Finals of the Rugby League World Cup 2017, and Tonga attracting sell out crowds in Auckland. It is our role in the International Federation to support the growth of the game in this region which today's meeting underlined."
Mr. Nigel Wood, Chief Executive Officer of the Rugby League International Federation said: “it was very productive and encouraging meeting with all nations actively engaged. There was a high level of calibration and a shared vision, for the future of International Rugby League. The hard work starts now with continued consultation with all stakeholders to convert what are currently simply concepts and ideas into a fine reality for international rugby league.