6 Jun 2013

New PNG league administration says stability is here to stay

4:55 pm on 6 June 2013

The rugby league community in Papua New Guinea says stability is here to stay after a new board was unanimously voted in at last week's Annual General Meeting in Lae.

The sport had been plagued by infighting and court battles in recent years but officials insist the only drama now will be take place on the field, not off it.

Vinnie Wylie reports:

The new board was elected to a three year term on Friday, with Don Fox beating out former chair John Numapo for the top job. Mr Fox had been in charge of an interim adminstration since November last year and says their re-election is a signal things are on the right track.

"What sort of rammed it home is that we had our board meetings in various parts of the country. Our last board meeting was in Mount Hagen - we had about 35 Presidents from around the Highlands. And it's probably the first time it's happened that we've been able to sit down and talk to them and listen to what their issues and problems were and said 'Right, lets try and fix things'. And we did that all around the country. That showed the people that the interim board that we had was willing to not only listen but try and do things to help everything."

An amended constitution was also passed unanimously at the meeting. Tas Batieri from the Rugby League International Federation has made his fair share of trips to PNG over the last few years but says this was an AGM he was happy to miss.

The fact that I wasn't there was a good omen because the last four I've attended never occurred, they were abandonded, and I must have been a bad omen so they have got their act together. There was a unanimous decision at the AGM which was pleasing, especially in a critical year towards the World Cup.

The head coach of PNG Kumuls, Adrian Lam, welcomes the new appointments and says, now that some stability has been established, it's time to focus on the players.

I've been involved with rugby league up here in Papua New Guinea, for over 20 years now - as a player and captain, and now coach - and it's the best thing that could happen for our sport up there. We've certainly been getting a lot of support from corporate companies, the local government and also the Australian government, through AusAid, so now there's great signs ahead. We've put a high performance programme together, which will go over five years now. We've brought Mal Meninga on board as Director of Rugby League. So we're now going to implement that elite level programme in and also get our junior development programmes right and also looking at an academy.

Don Fox says supporting the Kumuls on their path to the Rugby League World Cup is the new board's immediate priority and they're also keen to invest in the grassroots over the coming three years.

The focus has really got be switched from the administration, or people like myself, to really the game itself and the players and the coaching and the quicker that can happen the better for everyone. Now that we've overcome the, shall we say, the small mountain that we had to climb, we can see our way clear to move on and improve the game. It's all there, it's just a matter of pulling it together. That will take time, and now that we've got some good people involved we can get some credibility back and that's what people are wanting.

The Kumuls have test matches against Fiji and Scotland lined up before the World Cup kicks off in October.