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Papua New Guinea is the only nation to boast Rugby League as its national sport and, since taking a bow in the game’s 1985-88 tournament, the Papuans have been World Cup ever-presents.
Rugby League was brought to PNG during the 1930s and 40s by Australian miners and serviceman, and the sport quickly established itself in the national psyche.
A governing body was founded in 1949 and, over the next three decades, Rugby League developed rapidly with growing numbers of participants and spectators.
PNG joined the fledgling Rugby League International Federation in 1974 and entered the Test arena a year later, losing 40-12 to Great Britain in the capital Port Moresby.
A decade later, Papua New Guinea were invited to participate in Rugby League’s newly-formatted World Cups of 1986-1988 and 1989-1992, with the highlight a shock victory over New Zealand 24-22 in Port Moresby in 1986.
Although ultimately unsuccessful, the Kumuls played their part in a 1995 World Cup group that threw up the tournaments’ most memorable and entertaining fixtures been PNG, New Zealand and Tonga.
In the 2000 World Cup, led by the talismanic Adrian Lam, PNG made history by finishing top of their pool and qualifying for the quarter finals for the first time.
PNG were automatic qualifiers for the 2008 World Cup, where they were grouped with Australia, New Zealand and England in the super pool. The Kumuls very nearly upset England in the first match, and preformed creditably too against New Zealand and Australia.
10 sides compete in Papua New Guinea’s top level domestic competition, the Digicel Cup: Simbu Warriors; Goroka Lahanis; Mount Hagen Eagles; Enga Mioks; Mendi Muruks; Lae Snax Tigers; Rabaul Gurias; Port Moresby Vipers; Hela Wigmen and Gulf Isapeas.
The Papua New Guinea government has even held talks with the NRL and the Australian government about the possibility of entering a team in the NRL. Another successful World Cup campaign will not harm the Kumuls’ cause.