Papua New Guinea will be the first host in an ongoing commitment to play NRL pre-season trial matches in Pacific nations as part of a joint initiative between the ARL Commission and Federal Government.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, joined ARLC chairman Peter Beattie, CEO of Netball Australia Marne Fechner and representatives from the PNG Orchids women's rugby league team and PNG Pepe's netball team for the announcement in Brisbane on Wednesday.

The funding will assist the Orchids in preparing for the Pacific Test next month and also the Downer Rugby League World Cup Nines tournament to be held at Bankwest Stadium in October. It will build on their historic involvement in the 2017 World Cup.

As part of the commitment to boost the social impact of rugby league, Beattie announced that pre-season trials with some of the game's biggest stars would be held in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji in the years following the 2020 match in PNG.

The Million Dollar Kick promotion.
The Million Dollar Kick promotion. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"There is an overall strategy here about engagement with the Pacific," Beattie explained.

"To be frank, the Pacific is going to be one of the fastest-growing areas outside of Australia for rugby league, full stop.

"We'll obviously be looking to do it on a long-term basis. The minister mentioned 2020 but there will also be trial matches elsewhere.

"We are determined to see greater engagement with the Pacific but we couldn't do it without the support of DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] and the Federal Government."

We are determined to see greater engagement with the Pacific

ARLC chairman Peter Beattie

For Amelia Kuk, a former Jillaroo who was part of the PNG Orchids team in the 2017 World Cup, supporting the women's game in PNG will stretch beyond the rugby league field.

"They are breaking down barriers," Kuk told NRL.com.

"We come from such a male-dominated country and rugby league is the national sport in PNG. The male players who play for the Kumuls and in the NRL, they are worshipped and treated like royalty when they go back home and this shows that women can do the same.

"Just knowing that the Orchids are the female version of the Kumuls shows how far they have come in breaking down those barriers and stereotypical mindset that women should stay at home and not take part in sport.

"The funding that we have received from the Australian government helps us massively.

ARLC chairman Peter Beattie.
ARLC chairman Peter Beattie. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"Some of our girls have never even been on a plane before so to get that opportunity to fly to Australia and see the standard of footy here and to take that back to improve the game in PNG is a huge privilege."

The support of the Orchids and Pepes forms an important part of the Federal Government’s Sports Diplomacy 2030 strategy that was launched in February and which recognises the power of sport to influence throughout the Pacific region.

"We know that they are pioneers of elite women's sport in Papua New Guinea and these two events are going to strengthen pathways for elite sportswomen and most importantly grow participation in these sports in PNG," Ms Payne said.