Hull KR announce ‘groundbreaking’ partnership with Papua New Guinean club

Ben Olawumi
Hull KR badge, Papua New Guinea flag, Willie Peters

Hull KR have announced a new partnership with Papua New Guinean outfit Port Moresby Vipers

Hull KR have announced a new partnership with Papua New Guinean outfit Port Moresby Vipers, with two juniors from the club set to join the Robins’ academy each year and eventually push on towards the first-team at Craven Park.

The partnership – which KR describe as ‘groundbreaking’ in their press release – will see any PNG aces that are successful in making it into the senior set-up in East Hull go down as ‘federation-trained’, meaning they will not take up a quota spot.

This is similar to Kumuls international Lachlan Lam at Leigh Leopards, who does not take up a quota spot having been eligible to be classed as federation-trained.

Two juniors from the Vipers will link up with the Robins‘ under-18’s in the next few months, and while with the club, they will be provided with comprehensive education and welfare support to aid their personal development and integration into the new environment.

KUMULS PRIDE: Leigh Leopards stars Lachlan Lam & Edwin Ipape ‘humbled’ by Papua New Guinea support as hooker takes a trip down memory lane

Hull KR announce ‘groundbreaking’ partnership with Papua New Guinean club: ‘It’s exciting, innovative and has huge potential’

Newly announced, the partnership strengthens the connection between Super League and PNG, with nine Kumuls internationals involved in the top flight this year already, and PNG native Adrian Lam at the helm of Leigh as the Leopards‘ head coach.

KR chief executive Paul Lakin said: “This is a very significant partnership for both Hull KR and Papua New Guinea’s domestic game that has been months in planning.

Papua New Guinea fans at Craven Park, Papua New Guinea at Craven Park
Top: Papua New Guinea fans at Craven Park ahead of a World Cup game against France in 2013; Bottom: The Kumuls sing their national anthem ahead of that game

“Papua New Guinea is the only country in the world whose primary sport is rugby league. We’ll put the time and attention into this partnership to ensure we give it the best possible chance of success.

“It’s exciting, innovative and has huge potential.”

Ex-Robins ace Jason Netherton is now the club’s head of academy, and says he’s delighted they’ve been able to get this partnership agreed.

The 41-year-old added: “This partnership has been 12 months in the making and I’m really excited to finally announce it.

“We as a club have a great history with PNG rugby league, and this will allow that affinity to continue for years to come.

“Players from PNG are traditionally very tough and uncompromising, I am looking forward to helping develop their skillset, embedding them into our culture and hopefully seeing them become future Hull KR players.”

READ NOW: The nine Papua New Guinea players playing in Super League this season as Kumuls contingent in England grows

Port Moresby Vipers chief on new partnership with Robins: ‘It is a life-changing opportunity we should grab with both hands’

The Vipers, who are the flagship club in PNG’s capital Port Moresby, have won the country’s National Cup on four occasions with the latest in 2013, with hopes of taking a spot in the New South Wales Cup alongside the NRL’s second-grade sides.

The National Football Stadium, Papua New Guinea
The National Football Stadium, Papua New Guinea, home to the Port Moresby Vipers

There has also been talk of a side from PNG entering the NRL itself in recent months, with that discussion still roaring on Down Under.

Their governor – and patron – Power Parkop MP detailed: “I’m ecstatic about this new junior rugby league development programme which I must say is the first ever advance programme that has a huge potential for young local rugby aspirants.

“We are witnessing a milestone sports deal sealed between two rugby league clubs which will now open a huge opportunity to develop and expose young Papua New Guinean talents to the world.

“As patron of the Port Moresby Vipers franchise, I assure you of my earnest commitment to support the partnership as Vipers is the flagship franchise of the city and its programme is fully funded by the National Capital District Commission as part of its sports programme in the city.

“The opportunity to train and develop our young talents will now give prominence to our PNG NRL Bid. The doors are open for our players to train in a tier 1 rugby league competition equal to the NRL system in Australia. We can strengthen our players stock come international fixtures.

“The significance about this arrangement is that our development players will not only play rugby league but also further their education by schooling in the UK. It is a life-changing opportunity we should grab with both hands.

“It is important to note that this pathway support players who are in schools. I take my hat off to club executives of both clubs for their insight into opening this remarkable sporting portal to develop rugby league in Papua New Guinea.

“Let me take this time to thank Port Moresby Vipers Vice Chairman, Tony Sipa, for his foresight taking the lead in the initial discussions and the eventual signing with Hull KR executives. The negotiation took place in during the 2022 (2021) Rugby League World Cup in England.

Jason Netherton
Jason Netherton, now Hull KR’s head of academy, in action for the Robins back in 2007

“A very first of a formal and structured pathway direct into UK Super League. Also, my utmost appreciation to Jason Netherton, Rob Wilson (KR’s head of recruitment) and PNG star export, John Okul, all part of the initial discussions.

“These two combined footy executives have carved a path that I believe is the way forward in the development of our national game in the country. I am extremely proud of Dr. Newton Albert Chairman of Port Moresby Vipers for his leadership in our pathway programme.

“As patron of Port Moresby Vipers, I am honoured to witness this historic launch between the two great clubs and wish them all the success in this endeavour.”

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Challenge Cup semi-final draw details confirmed ahead of this weekend’s last-eight ties with Hull KR vying to have their name in the hat