The Australian Government and the AFL have kicked off a new partnership with the launch of a taskforce to expand Australian rules football in Papua New Guinea.
The PNG AFL Taskforce will be jointly chaired by Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles and PNG Foreign Minister Ano Pala.
It will include PNG-born and three-time premiership player Mal Michael, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade representative and former Richmond player Ray Hall, AFL International Development Manager Tony Woods and AusAID representatives.
The Taskforce will look at all facets of the game including the implementation of development programs, football programs to assist with social issues, an elite player pathway with an expanded Academy program and the possibility of a PNG representative team playing on a weekly basis in an Australian football competition.
Recommendations will be made by the Taskforce with a view to partnership programs in the coming years.
"We know PNG is a sports-loving nation and this taskforce is an important step in the development of a game much-loved in Australia but less-developed in PNG," Mr Marles said.
"Importantly, it follows last month’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Australian Government and the AFL which recognises the strength of collaboration in developing the game’s export potential."
One of Papua New Guinea’s most famous exports, Mr Michael said he is looking forward to playing an important role for football in his homeland.
"Back in 2002 I said there will be more players from PNG that would be able to play at the highest level and with the support of the Taskforce I don't think this is too far from being a reality. I know the positive impact Australian football can have on both individuals and communities and I look forward to giving same opportunities that I did," he said.
AFL International Development Manager Tony Woods said the Taskforce will engage with footballers throughout PNG.
"There is fantastic potential in PNG with more than 27,000 participants currently playing the game. By providing a network of programs we know this number will rise and there will be opportunities for elite players to pursue their football," Mr Woods said.
One of PNG’s most promising elite players, Brendan Beno, played with the Brisbane Lions reserves for the first time last month. Beno, 17, is one of nine PNG players on AFL International Scholarships.
Last month the PNG national team performed strongly in the International Cup, where they were runner-up to Ireland.
- Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4330
- Departmental Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555