In Papua New Guinea, Rugby league is highly popular and is regarded as the country’s national sport. The national side are known as the Kumuls ("birds-of-paradise" in Tok Pisin). Many Papua New Guinean players have left the country in order to pursue professional rugby league careers in Great Britain and Australia.
A team representing Papua New Guinea (generally made up of a mixture of locally based players and International Players) plays an Australian Prime Minister's XIII in an annual match in Port Moresby at the Lloyd Robson Oval. The Australian side consists mostly of developing players from the premier competition the National Rugby League (NRL), as well as a couple of veterans.
was first played in in the late forties; it was introduced to the nation by Australian soldiers stationed there during and after the Second World War. Papua New Guinea were admitted to the game’s International Federation in 1974. On 6 July 1975, at Lloyd Robnson Oval, in Port Moresby the Kumuls played their first ever international. They were beaten 40-12 by England. The English team were en route to Australia and New Zealand to fulfil away fixtures during the 1975 World Cup.
They first entered the Rugby League World Cup for the 1985-89 competition, though it was not until 1995 that they won away from home. In 1987 The Kumuls stage their first full test playing tour of Britain, after playing BARLA opposition in 1979. They lost the test 42-0 at Central Park, Wigan.
On Tuesday 20 October 1987, that Cumbria met Papua New Guinea before a crowd of 3, 750 at the Recreation Ground, Whitehaven. Cumbria won 22-4. Four days later they played a World Cup rated Test against Great Britain.
During the 1988 Great Britain Lions tour of Australasia a Test match was played at Port Moresby. Later that year Papua New Guinea played a World Cup match against Australia in Wagga Wagga, the Kangaroos recording a then international record winning margin of 62 points with a 70-8 win. Australian winger Michael O'Connor crossed for four tries and kicked seven goals for a personal points haul of 30, which could have been 44 had he not missed seven kicks at goal. In 1991 Papua New Guinea played host to a touring Great Britain, the series ended in a 1-1 draw.
On Sunday 27 October 1991, Papua New Guinea met Wales at Vetch Field, Swansea. Roared on by a fervent crowd of 11, 422; Wales won by a record 68-0 margin, scoring thirteen tries. Papua New Guinea never recovered and lost all five matches in Britain, conceding 232 points in the process, and won only one of their four matches in France.
Papua New Guinea wound up their 1991 tour of Europe with a World Cup rated Test match against France, which was played on Sunday 24 November at the Stade Albert Domec, Carcassonne. Despite Papua New Guinea leading 8-4 at half-time; France defeated their visitors 28-14.
The Kumuls hosted Australia for a two test series in October 1991 (won 2-0 by the Kangaroos), and also hosted Great Britain during the 1992 Lions tour of Australasia.
Papua New Guinea travelled to England to compete in the 1995 World Cup under coach Joe Tokam and captain Adrian Lam. In their group was Tonga and New Zealand, against whom they failed to win a match.
In 1996 Bob Bennett, brother of the famous Wayne Bennett, was appointed the Kumuls' coach. And Bob Bennett the coach of the 2000 World Cup Kumuls team made the qualification two the pool were the kumuls made it into the top 5 team in the world so the 2000 World Cup Kumuls team was granted the best kumuls team. In 2005 Papua New Guinea beat the Australian Prime Minister's XIII 24-16 in Darwin. This was the first win over any Australian based national side. In 2007 Papua New Guinea drew with Australia PM XIII 24-24.
The Papua New Guinea team experienced huge difficulties leading to the 2010 Rugby League Four Nations Tournament, as politicians clashed for control over the game and the governing body, the PNGRFL, was split over issues concerning junior development, the national team and the Papua New Guinea NRL bid. This caused Adrian Lam to retire as head coach of the Kumuls in September 2010 while recently retired captain Stanley Gene, who had never coached a side before, was named his replacement. The governing board were adamant that more Papua New Guinea-based players should be in the squad, and fewer Australia-based players should be picked. In early October the squad was announced for the tournament and consisted of 12 PNG-based players with captain Paul Aiton being the only NRL player. Whilst the Australian team for the tournament was worth an estimated A$10 million, local newspapers calculated the Kumuls value at around A$670, 000.
Despite the Australian media treating the defeat of the Papua New Guinean team as a mere formality, with the team having odds of 125-1 to win the tournament, the players and journalists at home were positive that the Kumuls could make a lasting impression in the tournament. After their first up 42-0 defeat against Australia, the team's enthusiasm and crunching tackles were praised, but ball control and creativity let the team down hugely. However the team faced much more criticism after their 76-12 thrashing suffered at the hands of New Zealand, with fans angry at the poor display from the players and some questioning the credentials of new coach Stanley Gene. Days after the match a broader look at the sport in the country occurred with one assessment concluding that rugby league was poorly managed and former PNG great Marcus Bai called on clubs to supply a greater number of representative standard players especially from the New Guinea Islands region which had supplied five of this year's team. The way politics had made its way into the governing of the sport was also condemned.
Return To Redfern
On the 9th of February 2013, Papua New Guinea played a trial game against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, at Redfern Oval. They lost 38-12.
2015 Pacific Rugby League Test
In May 2015, Papua New Guinea took on Fiji in the 2015 Melanesian Cup at Cbus Super Stadium. The International was part of a triple header which also included the Polynesian Cup, between Samoa and Tonga, and the Junior Kangaroos against the Junior Kiwis. The Kumuls never really troubled the Fijians after handling errors and poor decisions led to the Bati easily winning the inaugural Melanesian Cup by 22-10.
2013 World Cup squad
Papua New Guinea Squad for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, where the kumuls will play France, Samoa and New Zealand.
|2013 PNG Squad|
|First team squad||Coaching staff|