PNG Academy launched to identify next Olam, Ipape or Albert

Published by IntRL
10 Jul 2023

Rugby League in Papua New Guinea has taken another major step forward with the creation of the first Academy for elite junior players aimed at identifying talent to follow in the footsteps of Justin Olam, Edwin Ipape and Elsie Albert.

The most talented 14-to-16 year-old players in the country will now receive the best possible coaching, mentoring and off-field support as part of PNG’s bid to become the next NRL club.

The program will launch in Port Moresby on Monday 17 July, with a view towards becoming a national program in the coming years, with 74 players initially identified from over 60 schools in the National Central District.

All players will receive specialist coaching, with the focus being on enhancing players’ technical skills and decision-making abilities.

In addition, all players will be physically tested and given programs that will align them with those of the same age-group that are currently in the NRL Club system.

Junior Afuti, David Rabu and Mwla Joseph from Gerehu Primary School

With coaching and guidance crucial at this stage of a player’s development, the Academy will provide a vital step towards an elite player pathway model that will educate young PNG players about all aspects required to become an NRL player, both on and off the field.

It will also provide another important building block in the overall structure of rugby league in the country.

Andrew Hill, PNG NRL Bid CEO, views the Academy as another major step in the development of rugby league in PNG.

“Launching an academy for our best 14-to-16 year-old’s is a major step forward when it comes to creating an elite player pathway for the game in PNG," Hill said.

“Having visited a number of NRL clubs over the past few months, I’m confident that the program we have created will provide talented young players the opportunity to be successful and on par with NRL clubs in Australia.

“Having witnessed the success in recent seasons at the Parramatta Eels with Joey Grima leading the academy programs, I know our players in PNG will be given the right environment for success.

"The Parramatta Eels won the Under 19s competition this year and many players had been in that system for several years.

Academy coach Joey Grima with players from Phillips Aravure Primary School

“We are looking to create a structure that can identify and develop the next Justin Olam, Edwin Ipape or Elsie Albert, and take them on a journey to playing in the NRL.

“I would like to thank the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Sport, Don Polye, for assisting this project and helping us take our elite player pathway model to another level.

"The NRL Bid is looking forward to helping with the Government’s Go Rural Go Global strategy over the next few years.”