The Morrison Government will increase support for Papua New Guinea’s trailblazing women’s national rugby league and netball teams as part of our Pacific Sports Linkages Program.

As part of our flagship Pacific Step Up initiative, Australia is funding a number of activities to strengthen pathways for elite Pacific sports as part of our deepening ties with the region.

The Government will partner with the Australian National Rugby League to provide support to the PNG Orchids to prepare and compete in next month’s Pacific Test in Sydney and the Rugby League World Cup of Nines in October.

“The Orchids are pioneers of elite women’s sport in PNG and these two international events will grow participation in PNG and strengthen pathways for elite sportswomen,” Minister Payne said.

“Rugby league in Papua New Guinea is a shared passion that unites the country and brings Australia and Papua New Guinea closer together.”

As part of the Sports Linkages program, the NRL will also play a pre-season trial match in the Pacific each season, starting with Papua New Guinea in 2020.

The Government will also partner with Netball Australia to support the PNG netball team, The Pepes, train and prepare for the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.

“Whether it’s netball, rugby league, rugby union or football, our goal is to bring talented PNG athletes together in high level competitions, to build the capacity of local sporting organisations and drive the development of elite sports in Papua New Guinea,” Minister Payne said.

Minister for Sport Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie said these investments are part of Australia's new Sports Diplomacy 2030 strategy, which is our clear plan on how we can capitalise on our sporting excellence on and off the field, for the benefit of our local athletes, sports codes, and regional partners.

“Our new Sports Diplomacy 2030 strategy recognised the power of sport to inspire across the Pacific region, particularly when it comes to sporting excellence and integrity,” Minister McKenzie said.

“This is why the Government is so pleased to be able to partner with the NRL and Netball Australia to deliver programs in PNG.”

“This investment demonstrates our commitment to strengthening relationships through sport with our Pacific neighbours.”

The $40 million Australia-Pacific Sports Linkages Program is a key component of our Pacific Step Up that will boost leadership, gender equality and health and improve the lives of people with disability in the region.