18 Oct 2016

Sport: Vanuatu urges league bosses to help emerging nations

12:38 pm on 18 October 2016

Vanuatu Rugby League has called on the game's ruling bodies to offer more support to emerging nations.

A locally-based Vanuatu team defeated Solomon Islands 24-15 in Port Vila at the weekend in their first international match for two years.

Brothers and Vanuatu teammates Ben Lui (left), Tonny Lui (middle) and Danford Lui (right) with the Vanuatu and Solomon Islands Trophy.

Brothers and Vanuatu teammates Ben Lui (left), Tonny Lui (middle) and Danford Lui (right) with the Vanuatu and Solomon Islands Trophy. Photo: Vanuatu Rugby League

Head coach Lionel Harbin said it was a typically physical encounter between the Pacific nations.

"It was a great feeling ...it's been a long wait since rugby league has been played by the Vanuatu people and it was great that they got the win in front of their home crowd," he said.

"It was a typical Pacific nations game - very very physical, both teams went at each other, which was good to see and I think we just handled the conditions a bit better in the second half and we came away with the win.

"The players are still very raw, still learning and still developing in the game. The passion that they have for the game it can't be questioned - that's from both teams. It was amazing to see, to be honest."

The Solomon Islands were beaten by Vanuatu.

The Solomon Islands were beaten by Vanuatu. Photo: Solomon Islands Rugby League

Lionel Harbin said the match was only possible because of the financial support from local sponsors and the Australian-based management staff that paid their own way to be a part of the weekend's match.

He would like to see the NRL and Rugby League International Federation offer backing to help them grow the sport and invest in local development programmes.

"We've got to build on the success of this game we've got at the moment. We've got to start implementing development programmes in the country and that's something I'll be working with the management team to try and implement," he said.

"The more the NRL can get involved and, like I said, this is grassroots at its best and that's where we need their assistance. Whether it's financial or [something else] I don't know but we do need help to further build the game in these nations - and that's not just Vanuatu, that's Solomon Islands as well, so hopefully we can get them on board."

Lionel Harbin said Vanuatu was currently in talks to arrange another international match prior to next year's World Cup.