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Yet another milestone was achieved for the Australian rugby league program League Bilong Laif with the official launching of the Lae NRL office yesterday in Morobe Province, PNG.

The launch was officiated by Australian High Commissioner His Excellency Jon Philp, witnessed by dignitaries including local MP and Minister for Lands and Physical Planning Hon. John Rosso, Health Minister Hon. Jelta Wong, Provincial Program Advisor (Education Dept.) Mr. Keith Tangui, Chairman of PNG National Rugby League (PNGNRL) Adrian Chow, teachers and students from local schools.

High Commissioner Philp spoke on the power of sport as a unifying tool. “We can see how rugby league (sports) plays an important role in bringing together communities.” He said NRL’s League Bilong Laif (LBL) program was helping children learn how to play rugby league better, to know the importance of education, encouraging healthy habits and understanding gender equality better.

“We’ve supported LBL together with NRL and National Department of Education for 7 years now. It’s a really important program for us and I’m really pleased that we are able to bring that to the school children in Lae as well,” he said. We know that football is great, it’s good for health, education, it’s terrific for gender equality, I’m so pleased to see so many young girls participating in this program.”

The High Commission presented students with NRL team branded face masks, while each school received rugby league balls and program packs.

Meanwhile, PNGNRL Chairman Adrian Chow explained how the NRL managed school-based program formed an integral role in PNGRFL’s development pathway for rugby league in country. “The LBL program is targeted at you, the young, when your minds are ready to absorb quality education while at the same time providing the foundation for the development of rugby here in Papua New Guinea.”

In her closing remarks, NRL PNG General Manager Cathy Neap acknowledged the PNG Australia Partnership, the National Department of Education, PNG Rugby Football League and Milo. She highlighted the significance of the partnership in instilling positive behaviour in children at an early age whilst building a development pathway for those who want to play rugby league.

“Our program engages boys and girls of all abilities, teaching them key messages on respectful behaviour, the importance of going to school and living a healthy active lifestyle through our game.”

NRL PNG also runs other programs. “Apart from managing LBL, we oversee Mini and Modified rugby league, coaching and referee updates in consultation with PNGRFL, and, Voice Against Violence- an initiative aimed at tackling gender-based violence and its different forms in PNG.

“We now have offices set up in all regions in country,” she added.

The event finished on a high note with students taking part in rugby league drills and games, in compliance with Covid safe protocols.