PNG's new National Football Stadium to open in Port Moresby
The traditional home of rugby league in Papua New Guinea is about to reopen.
Papua New Guinea's new National Football Stadium in Port Moresby will be officially opened this weekend.
The former Lloyd Robson Oval is the official home of rugby league in PNG and will be a key venue during next year's World Cup.
Vinnie Wylie reports.
The National Football Stadium has been out of action for the past two years while renovations took place and was not used during the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby. But the ground is expected to be close to its 15,000 seat capacity on Saturday for a rugby league double-header to mark the ground re-opening. PNG Rugby League CEO Bob Cutmore says it's a venue steeped in rugby league history.
BOB CUTMORE: The Lloyd Robson Oval was the traditional home of rugby league in Port Moresby. We played our first ever Kumul game there back in 1975 under the captaincy of Paul Tew. It's a wonderful opportunity to just celebrate the legacy and the tradition of rugby league with the opening of the National Football Stadium.
The Porebada Bulldogs and Magi Highway Ravens women's teams will contest the curtain-raiser on Saturday afternoon before the Papua New Guinea Hunters take on the Penrith Panthers New South Wales Cup side. Kumuls international Wellington Albert has been included in the Panthers line-up against his former team, while younger brother Stanton Albert is also on the books at Penrith. Panthers officials travelled to PNG to watch the Hunters play last season and Bob Cutmore says they're keen to form a lasting relationship and be the club of choice for PNG's top players.
BOB CUTMORE: I think they are looking at that in the not too distant future. The Panthers have always made that first approach and they want to have a relationship with PNG and the [Albert] boys are now currently playing for them and [former Kumuls hooker] James Segeyaro is playing for them, with a PNG heritage.
The Hunters have relocated to Port Moresby ahead of their third season in the Queensland Cup, with the National Stadium expected to host its share of home matches. Coach Michael Marum is impressed with what he's seen so far.
MICHAEL MARUM: It's a rugby league ground and the way the stadium has been designed too it's just more suitable for rugby league and rugby union games. The boys are looking forward to the challenge against Penrith. We had a tour around the stadium. The field itself looks really good, the stands coming up proper, the dressing sheds are big enough for home and away teams and there's extra room you can fit a gym in and stuff like that [and] there's corporate boxes, so I think it's 15,000 capacity down there at the moment.
Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko says the reopening of Papua New Guinea's official home of rugby league will have lasting benefits in a number of sports.
JUSTIN TKATCHENKO: With that we will have some of the best facilities in the Pacific and in the region to host these big international events so we're looking forward to the [Rugby League] World Cup here in 2017 - it's going to be an unbelievable event - and of course having all the countries as well for the FIFA World Cup in November this year, coming to play soccer in our Under 20 Women's competition.
The game against Penrith will be the PNG Hunters only pre-season match before the new Queensland Cup season kicks off in March. The ground will be officially opened by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill shortly before kick-off.
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