Cairns-PNG joint NRL bid still a chance
The Cairns-Papua New Guinea NRL bid might have taken a back seat as cashed-up consortiums clamour to be the NRL's 17th team in the state's southeast corner, but Cairns Mayor Bob Manning insists it's not a dead duck.
Cr Manning has led the charge for a joint NRL bid with PNG since early 2018, going so far as to meet with former chief executive Todd Greenberg and chairman Peter Beattie about the plan.
While the impact of COVID-19 has put a dampener on discussions over the past year, and the NRL's current administration have expressed little interest in the idea, Cr Manning was adamant the door remained open.
"The prospects are still there and we're keen to talk, but it would require a financial agreement with the Federal Government and backing from a very high level in PNG," he said.
"I think we've got a fair way to go, but we're keen on it - we've always been keen on it.
"This is the only way our city will get a stadium."
It comes days after Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape said his country was aiming to have its own NRL team by 2025.
The PNG government recently signed a sports partnership agreement with Australia, which could help pave the way for a PNG-affiliated side to enter the NRL in the future.
Cr Manning maintained a joint bid with Cairns would be the ideal proposal.
"Our approach to PNG has been on the basis that to give this the best chance of succeeding, we would like to talk about how we might be able to partner," he said.
"I know that there would be opposition to this coming from Townsville because they would see that as competition with the Cowboys, but on the other hand, if you look at the bigger picture, the population of PNG is almost nine million - where else in the world can you pick up nine million people who would be absolutely committed to rugby league?
"The PNG people would love it, they're mad on rugby league, it's a religion, and I think that would be attractive for both countries."
"Our proposition to them was we think people in Australia would welcome a PNG side in, but it would probably have to be beefed up with a number of Australian or Pacific Islander players.
"Some of the time they'd be based in Port Moresby, some of the time they'd be in Cairns, but Cairns would probably be the best place to have them headquartered."
Cr Manning said he was still putting time and energy into the cause.
"DFAT (The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) have been supporters in the past, but they've never been prepared to take the running on it," he said.
"I've got a meeting with them next week where this will be talked about.
"We're not in the race yet, we're still in the pits, and we've got to go out for warm up laps and things like that."
Expansion is a hot topic, with the NRL set to make a decision this year to increase its number of clubs to 17 with the inclusion of a second Brisbane team scheduled for 2023.
Originally published as 'We're keen on it': Cairns-PNG joint NRL bid still a chance