Prime Minister Hon. James Marape expressed his belief that rugby league will serve as a catalyst for national unity and inspire the youth of Papua New Guinea to play sports and find positive pathways through life.
During a welcoming dinner on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Marape extended his warm greetings to the Australian and Papua New Guinean teams participating in the Prime Minister’s XIII tournament in Port Moresby on Saturday.
Prime Minister Marape emphasised the tremendous progress made by the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) in recent years, highlighting the nation’s preparedness to venture into the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) competition in the near future.
Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister expressed the Pangu-led Government’s unwavering commitment to the development of rugby league and sports among Papua New Guinean youth. He stressed the Government’s intent to provide these young talents with opportunities similar to those available to players in Australia.
Reflecting on the history of the Prime Minister’s XIII, Prime Minister Marape recalled its humble beginnings at Lloyd Robinson Oval, now known as Santos National Football Stadium. He noted that rugby league has always been a powerful platform for disseminating critical social messages within communities. Over the years, it has tackled issues such as gender-based violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and various other social challenges in communities.
In the realm of bilateral relations, Prime Minister Marape highlighted the significant role the competition has played in enhancing and strengthening the diplomatic ties between Papua New Guinea and Australia. The sport has emerged as a vital tool for people-to-people relations and sports diplomacy between the two nations.
Looking ahead to this year’s event, Prime Minister Marape celebrated the tournament’s growth, particularly with the addition of a women’s competition in 2017. This year’s event promises an action-packed weekend with 12 teams competing in six games, including Australian School Girls and School Boys facing off against Junior Orchids and Kumuls, as well as PNG and Australian Women’s teams, and the men’s teams. Additionally, a friendly game between the Australian and Papua New Guinea Defense Forces will take place.
In conclusion, Prime Minister Marape extended a warm welcome to the Australian teams and conveyed his best wishes to the PNG teams for a thrilling weekend of Rugby League. “ I will not be there at the stadium to watch due to Sabbath hours but my best wishes to all teams and may rugby league and good sport win in the Prime Minister’s XIII tournament.”