NRL eye tax-free status for players with PNG-based team

Scott Bailey |

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys wants exemptions for NRL players to be enticed to play in PNG.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys wants exemptions for NRL players to be enticed to play in PNG.

The NRL will launch an audacious bid for players and staff representing a Papua New Guinea franchise to be granted tax-free status, as part of a plan to base the team in the country.

PNG remains the top priority for the NRL’s next expansion from as early as 2027, with financial support from the Australian government a lure in the interest of Pacific relations.

Initially, plans had been for the side to be based out of Cairns, with some matches to be played in Port Moresby.

But the league’s tact has changed in recent weeks.

ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys now believes having the team permanently based in Port Moresby is likely to be the best option, after advice from a senior coach.

Comments from PNG-born-and-raised Wests Tigers centre Justin Olam have also reached V’landys, when he told AAP the team needed to based out of PNG to assist in player development.

Anthony Albanese and James Marape in a group photo.
The Australia and PNG prime ministers were at the 2022 Test match between the nations in Brisbane. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

The league’s biggest challenge, though, could be getting the team competitive and convincing players and top-line coaching staff to move overseas.

“To make it attractive for everyone to go over there, we’re going to ask the government that people be given tax-free status,” V’landys said.

“So if you’re going to go over there and work, to encourage you to go to Papua New Guinea, you should earn that money tax free.”

V’landys points to his experience in racing for the plan, where jockeys are regularly lured to Hong Kong for the 15 per cent tax rate.

“If the government allows us to have a tax-free status or a much-less tax rate … hopefully that will encourage our retired players and officials and our coaches,” he said.

V’landys’ position on basing the team in Port Moresby comes in the same week civil unrest has seen 26 men killed in PNG, prompting former national coach Stanley Tepend to fear it could cost the country an NRL franchise.

The situation has also placed doubt over the PNG Hunters’ ability to host their season-opening Queensland Cup match, but V’landys said the unrest was not factoring into the league’s decision-making.

“You’ve got to understand that PNG is not going to happen tomorrow, so hopefully the environment is going to change in the two or three years,” he added.

“It’s certainly an option to house them in Papua New Guinea.

“That’s not my idea, that’s come from a pretty high-profile coach.

“He believes that if you’re going to get the (support) and engagement in Papua New Guinea, you got to be based in PNG. Justin Olam said the same thing.”

V’landys and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo also revealed plans for a stronger push into England at Wednesday’s ARL Commission AGM.

But while there will be a heavy marketing campaign to increase subscriptions in the country, there are no immediate plans to host a competition match in there.

AAP