Trending topics

Select your station

We'll remember your choice for next time

"Have to pay double": What it would take to recruit NRL stars to PNG


Former Australian Kangaroos and Queensland Maroons prop David Shillington believes a new NRL team based in Papua New Guinea would struggle to attract players, even if they doubled their salaries.

Shillington, who is now a player manager and was the Canberra Raiders delegate to the RLPA during his time in the nation’s capital, spoke about what would be the new franchise’s biggest struggles if they came into the league.

Having played several games in PNG for the Prime Minister’s XIII as well as for Australian junior sides, the 40-year-old said it was obvious that it was going to be difficult to recruit top-level talent given teams like Canberra and even the Dolphins under Wayne Bennett have struggled to attract big names.

“I’m a really rose-coloured glasses type of person… but to get a player to relocate to Papua New Guinea, I’m pretty skeptical,” Shillington said on Mornings SENQ.

“I went to Canberra from Sydney and a lot of people wouldn’t go to Canberra from Sydney, then the Dolphins came in and they had Wayne Bennett as a coach of all people and he really struggled to recruit an NRL standard top 17 and players to replace that top 17 when they got injured and as such they struggled last year.

“But getting people to go to Redcliffe under Wayne Bennett was a real struggle so how are they going to get people to go to PNG.

“You’d have to pay people double at the start… it becomes so lucrative that they can’t go.

“You’d almost have to develop and build a bit of a village for the players, for the club and for the families, including a school, medicare and accommodation of course because of that danger to them… They wouldn’t be able to live a normal life.”

But Shillington said if anyone could make a difference with the social challenges locals in PNG face, the NRL could.

“It’s phenomenal how much they idolize you, I went there as an 18-year-old with the Junior Kangaroos, I’d never played first grade but most still knew my name because I was playing under-20s for the Roosters then, that’s how much they love their footy,” he said.

“One time we were there with the Prime Minister’s XIII and we went out to the Kokoda memorial in the morning… but then driving home on the team bus, we actually pulled over because there was a tribal war going on at the time.

“They used hammers, different bows and arrows and spears that type of fighting and combat and two tribes were going at each other because there was a death the night before.

“We pulled over in the bus and someone in that war spotted that it was the Kangaroos bus and they actually all stopped and starting cheering out to the Kangaroos.

“That’s mind blowing, one because that was going on first and foremost and then but two but they stopped because they saw the Kangaroos bus.”

A fourth Queensland team has been all but ruled out of the race to be part of the league’s expansion.

Rugby League

More in NRL