The NRL has reportedly found its 18th team, with the ambitious Papua New Guinea expansion plan now a goer after the Australian government gave the team’s funding plan a big thumbs up.

The expansion deal will be mostly footed by the Australian taxpayers, with $60 million to be injected into the team for operational costs across the first 10 years of play.

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The news was first revealed early on Wednesday, when 2GB radio host Ben Fordham said the deal had been struck. “The deal is done. The deal has been done,” Fordham said on Ben Fordham Live. “Now it’s all coming down to [the] timing of when Anthony Albanese takes it to cabinet, and I don’t think that’s going to be too far away.”

The Sporting Base understands this new PNG venture will join in 2027 or 2028 and will be tied to the PNG Hunters currently competing in the Queensland Cup.

The idea, TSB can confirm, is to play most PNG games out of Port Moresby.

This gives the fledgling football club at least three years to prepare for top-flight play in the National Rugby League—a run-time similar to when Redcliffe learned it would be the league’s 17th expansion squad. Perhaps the biggest difference there, however, is the Dolphins were already heavily active in rugby league and were richer than many NRL clubs. This PNG operation, which is as-yet without a formal name, will be building things from what is basically square one.

The biggest reason for the decision is China; PNG is widely considered by many to be the jewel of the Pacific and has long been eyed by China as a perfect chance to exert more influence over the region. The Australian government has been eager to keep the Papua New Guinea government on-side.

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With PNG joining, the NRL will do away with the regular byes teams have been taking since the Dolphins joined in 2023. An extra game will be played every round from 2027 or 2028.

The post PNG to be 18th NRL team after $600m pay plan gets government tick first appeared on The Sporting Base.

The post PNG to be 18th NRL team after $600m pay plan gets government tick appeared first on The Sporting Base.