PNG pleads for stadium expansion
The National Stadium in Port Moresby may be less than 12 months old but representatives from the Papua New Guinea rugby league will lobby the government for an expansion of the stadium to adequately cater for demand ahead of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
For the first time in 25 years PNG will host three games of the World Cup next year with the Kumuls to play the United States and two of the European qualifiers in games that will send local footy fans into a frenzy.
When the PNG Hunters played their first Intrust Super Cup game at the Sir John Guise Stadium in June last year against Souths Logan the 15,000 capacity was sold out in a matter of days and the Hunters regularly attract crowds to the revamped National Stadium (formerly Lloyd Robson Oval) in excess of 10,000.
When the World Cup draw for the Kumuls was released on Tuesday it wasn't revealed at which of the two stadiums the games would be played but Kumuls and Hunters coach Michael Marum said neither are currently big enough to house the number of fans who will want to attend next year.
"We've had a lot of people turn up for [PNG Hunters] games without tickets due to tickets being all sold out. With the World Cup, 15,000 for our games up there won't be enough for our supporters," Marum told NRL.com.
"There might be a lot of people hanging around outside waiting to get in so that is something that our board and president will probably have to look at.
"They're going to be big games. Everyone is going to be looking forward to coming along from all over PNG to watch those three games in the city.
"Definitely there will be people coming from all over from the islands to come down and get to watch one of those games.
"In past World Cups we have played away from home so this is their chance to come along and support us."
Titans fullback David Mead led the Kumuls to an upset victory over Fiji in the Pacific Test in May and said the prospect of playing a World Cup game in PNG was already one that has him extremely excited.
"To have three games at home is obviously a big boost for the country, not just for the players but for all the people of Papua New Guinea because rugby league is their national sport over there," said Mead.
"It's going to be unbelievable, I can already feel it.
"I played in the 2009 Pacific Test over there and it wasn't even really a stadium, it was just a couple of stands.
"There's a proper stadium there now so the atmosphere's going to be huge.
"People say that when the Hunters play over there that they hear the noise from kilometres away so it's going to be pretty big over there."
On the back of their 24-22 win over Fiji earlier this year the Kumuls moved up three places on the Rugby League International Federation's world rankings but still sit behind the likes of Scotland, USA and Wales in 11th position.
The introduction of the Hunters into Queensland's Intrust Super Cup competition two years ago has given PNG-based players a great springboard into professional rugby league and Marum said the national team received a heroes welcome after their win over Fiji.
"Everyone spoke about the Test match for over a week and there was really big support from everyone back at home," Marum said.
"At the airport the boys turned up and it was like winning a full tournament even though it was only one game."
Papua New Guinea's first game of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup will be against a European qualifier in Port Moresby on Saturday, October 28.