Crisis in PNG rugby league threatens NRL hopes | Pacific Beat

Crisis in PNG rugby league threatens NRL hopes

Crisis in PNG rugby league threatens NRL hopes

Updated 15 February 2012, 12:48 AEDT

The Papua New Guinea Rugby League has been in turmoil for months now, and any hope that matters might be resolved at last month's annual meeting were dashed when a court order was served on the interim president forcing him to postpone the proceedings.

The league's former deputy chairman is disputing the legitimacy of the interim administration and now the whole matter is set to go before a judge next week.

Tas Baitieri, International Development Manager for the Rugby League Federation, continues to keep a close eye on developments and can bring us up to date.

But first Tas Baitieri pays tribute to prominent rugby league identity Aquila Emil, with the news he's lost his life in a shooting.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Tas Baitieri, International Development Manager for the Rugby League Federation.

BAITIERI: Yeah Geraldine, Aquila was one of the staff members that the ARL funded for several years. He was a very competent person, he's a person that's going to surely be missed. He was working with the bid team at the end of last year where they ran or continue to run the school boys program in Port Moresby, and it's a tragic loss to not only the family but to the game of such a wonderful person.

COUTTS: It's going to be a big hole then to try and replace him, and it's a bit inopportune I guess to talk about that at this stage, but what impact will his death have on the work that he was doing?

BAITIERI: There will certainly be a void for a period of time Geraldine, but I know that the rugby league people at the moment, and even John Numapo as interim chairman, we're looking at how we can fill that void. There are a number of people that have worked along with him as volunteers, and some of them will be interviewed to see which one can fill the void.

COUTTS: And our commiserations to his friends and family as well, and we move on to other things now Tas. You were present at the annual meeting in PNG on January the 30th, so from your perspective what happened?

BAITIERI: Well it was unfortunate Geraldine, as you mentioned earlier there were court orders served on interim chairman John Numapo, preventing the AGM to continue. There were 20 league presidents there out of 23 at the meeting, all were unanimous in pushing on with the election of a chairman and a board, and getting on with business. Everybody had enough of the infighting that's been going on for the last 18 months, and people just want to get on with what they do best and play the game they love. Now I believe the court orders were served and they're back in court on the 17th of February, and hopefully we'll have an outcome on that date and possibly a new AGM date fixed following.

COUTTS: Now the court orders, was that a surprise move or is it just simply as you say Tas that everyone's fed up and wants this to be resolved?

BAITIERI: Well I think the court orders were served by Brian Kramer via the courts. Brian conducted or was involved in an AGM November previously, and appears to think that he was elected legitimately via a quorum of members. That's now in dispute by the interim chairman, and John Numapo, Gary Juffa and Albert Veratau, who are the interim committee, will be in court on the 17th to hear the matter go before the judge, and we'll see what the outcome's going to be. At the moment because this has been ongoing for a good 18 months, nobody can predict what the eventual outcome's going to be, so it's very frustrating and all people want to do is to get on with the job.

COUTTS: Well as it is before the courts, we have to be a bit careful about what we say, but what do you really think's behind all of this?

BAITIERI: Well I don't really know Geraldine, I mean I don't live up there permanently. I get a lot of rumours and unfortunately because they're rumours you can never substantiate them, it's best that as you said earlier, we zip our lips and we wait for it to be handled in court, because as you said if too much is said you could be held in contempt. And I know John Numapo was very active that when the court orders were served, he immediately abandoned the meeting because if there was any continuance of that meeting, some of those people would have been in jail immediately.

COUTTS: Is the court the best way to go, there's no way of mediation or mediating their way around this?

BAITIERI: Everybody would hope that there would be a mediation process. There was some talk about a mediation process and both parties getting together. I haven't had any recent update, I've just returned back from a trip up to Queensland with the flood appeal. But I'm sure if there is a mediation, it will certainly circumnavigate the court proceedings and we'll possibly get a resolution. However the state of the game is in a fair bit of turmoil, people are frustrated, and all the kids want to do is they want to play footy in an environment that's safe, they've got their insurance, they've got their gear. And unfortunately we've got some individuals that are a little selfish, and in actual fact they've hijacked the game as far as I'm concerned, which is not good, and we know what happens to hijackers.

COUTTS: Well the government has also thrown their hat into the ring by proposing legislation that'll see the PNG RL come under government control. What's the International Federation's view on that idea?

BAITIERI: I think in all countries government does have an involvement by funding sporting organisations. I think the government getting involved, probably not running, but being a mentor and putting several advisors around a board that can actually function correctly in terms of preparing budgets, looking at finance, looking at insurance, how we can organise a jersey, just the basic necessities to play the game. for instance footballs, if you haven't got a football in Papua New Guinea you can't play the game, but we've got plenty of manpower, and girl power for that matter, but without the basic equipment you can't play the game, and these are some of the areas that the country's lacking.

COUTTS: Now you've already touched on this, but the damage that it's doing to the sport in PNG in particular and the country's bid for a spot in the National Rugby League alongside teams from Australia and New Zealand, must also be in question now?

BAITIERI: I don't they're doing themselves too many favours, it's certainly impacting on their image, on whether they can handle the business of the game. Can you imagine a case like this in Australia and New Zealand where the game's hijacked because of certain individuals? I think it hasn't done them any favours whatsoever. You need stern leadership, you need good people that will follow the rules and obey the rules and get on with business, and at the moment that's not happening and it's causing a lot of prejudice to everybody that's associated with the country. And even internationally, it not only impacts us because we're close neighbours, but you know England and France and Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, all of them, even Russia, are all watching this episode and want to know how it's going to play out.

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