Sports diplomacy: PNG and the NRL
Rugby league is a shared passion in Australia and Papua New Guinea, and, potentially, a powerful connector between the two countries. Sports diplomacy transcends borders, fosters mutual understanding, and promotes shared values. Half of all Australian National Rugby League players have Pacific heritage.
As Australia looks to build closer ties with Papua New Guinea, the prospect of a PNG team joining the NRL has emerged as one way to strengthen people-to-people links. The PNG bid represents an effort to increase the presence of Papua New Guinean players in professional rugby league. If successful, it would make PNG the only country outside Australia and New Zealand to have a team in the NRL. But the bid is not without its challenges.
On Tuesday 27 June, the Lowy Institute's Aus-PNG Network hosted this lunchtime event to explore the latest in Australia-PNG sports diplomacy.
The Hon Pat Conroy MP, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, delivered an address and then took part in a panel discussion alongside:
- Amelia Kuk, former PNG Orchids and Brisbane Broncos player
- David Mead, former PNG Kumuls captain, Gold Coast Titans and Brisbane Broncos player
The event was chaired by Mihai Sora, Aus-PNG Network Project Director at the Lowy Institute.
Amelia Kuk is an accomplished former rugby league player and a pioneering figure in women’s sport. Recognised for her time with the PNG Orchids and Brisbane Broncos, Amelia has not only made her mark through exceptional athletic performances but also as an advocate for inclusivity and the advancement of women in rugby league.
Born in Port Moresby, David Mead moved to Australia when he was 12. David played 172 games in the NRL and 58 games in the English Super League before retiring at the end of 2022 NRL season. An alumnus of the Gold Coast Titans, the Brisbane Broncos and the Catalans Dragons, David also represented PNG on 15 occasions across 3 rugby league world cups. A devoted ambassador for his homeland, David has consistently championed rugby league at the grassroots level in PNG.