The Papua New Guinea Hunters look set to get their long-awaited Queensland Cup homecoming match after Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pledged security support for the Mackay Cutters.
The Cutters had earlier told Queensland Rugby League officials they would not travel to Port Moresby, and had forfeited the match. The QRL on Thursday afternoon issued a statement saying the club would be issued a show-cause, and threatened to boot them from the competition for not going.
The Hunters had not had a home game since the start of the pandemic, and two previously-scheduled homecoming matches had already been moved back to Australian shores due to political tensions in the region.
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However, the Cutters game had been given the go-ahead following a risk-assessment by the QRL, before the club pulled the pin.
Albanese’s office confirmed he had spoken to Defence Minister Richard Marles and the QRL, committing government support to “any request for security” for the match.
“The people of PNG are passionate in their support for rugby league and our relationship is of critical importance to Australia,” he said.
Speaking to ABC Tropical North, Mr Albanese said he had been in touch with his PNG counterpart James Marape, who was also keen to see the match go ahead, and had also committed to providing security of their own.
“He said to me he would personally be there providing them with with support. He wants the game to go ahead, the people of PNG want to see it go ahead, the QRL who I spoke to this afternoon want to see it go ahead.
“I’m very confident that the game should go ahead and I’m very hopeful that it will.”
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the QRL said it had issued the Cutters with a “notice of intention to terminate their Participation Agreement” for withdrawing from the match, to which the club must provide a response and “show cause as to why the club should continue their involvement in the QRL statewide competitions in 2023”.
“The QRL board completed an extensive independent risk assessment prior to giving approval for the game to proceed,” it read.
“The QRL said (Thursday) the Cutters’ decision to not travel to Port Moresby was considered a breach of the Participation Agreement.
“If the Cutters are unable to remedy the breach of the Participation Agreement, they will be suspended from all QRL statewide competitions as their current Participation Agreement will be terminated.”
The Cutters are Mackay’s top side, and provide a feeder program into the North Queensland Cowboys.
Both teams are currently languishing towards the bottom of the ladder. The Cutters are 8-10 in 11th on the ladder, while the Hunters are 6-11 with a draw, and place below in 12th.
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