The explosion in popularity of rugby league in the Pacific region over the past several years is set to continue with the unveiling of the Pacifique Treize Rugby League bid who are seeking to enter the Intrust Super Cup competition, based in Queensland in 2023.
The Noumea, New Caledonia based bid has ambitions to not only develop an elite Intrust Super Cup side but also to further assist with the development of rugby league throughout French speaking Pacific territories including New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, French Polynesia and Vanuatu.
A six-member steering committee, which has representation in New Caledonia and Australia and comprises French, Australian and Vanuatu nationalities, has been working for the past 12 months researching the feasibility of this bold bid. The Pacifique Treize bid (which literally translated means Pacific 13 in reference to the territory and the number of players in a rugby league team) will seek to establish a close relationship with the Vanuatu Rugby League, given the geographical, historical and cultural ties between New Caledonia and Vanuatu. The intention is that Vanuatu could host two games per season from 2023 onwards should the Pacifique Treize bid be successful in gaining entry into the Intrust Super Cup.
With a population of close to 800,000 people across the whole catchment, Pacifique Treize has a perfect base to set up the side. Discussions between the Pacifique Treize steering committee and the Queensland Rugby League (QRL) have been ongoing since mid-2019. The QRL, who are the governing body of the Intrust Super Cup, have publicly stated that they would like to expand the competition from its current 14 team structure to 16 teams by the year 2023. As such, Pacifique Treize will be formulating a thorough Expression of Interest to be considered as an “expansion” team to the Intrust Super Cup should the 16-team competition become a reality.
Pacifique Treize has taken inspiration from the success of PNG Hunters who have participated in the Intrust Super Cup since 2014 and also the rise of the Toronto Wolfpack from a non-rugby league city in Canada to the European Super League in a very short space of time. The bid will be keeping a close eye on the progression of the Kaiviti Silktails from Fiji, who embark on their own similar journey of playing in Australia from 2020 onwards.
Vanuatu represents a very important part of the Pacifique Treize ambitions, with Vanuatu to be seen as a key development market for playing talent and also a host destination for touring teams into the future.
“We are looking forward to the engagement process with stakeholders and the Queensland Rugby League to meet the guidelines required for entry into the Intrust Super Cup for the 2023 season. We believe in this project and we are confident of our success” Pacifique Treize Vanuatu Engagement Director and VRL Board Member, Sandy Marango stated.
Mr Marango also commented “As someone with a deep passion to see rugby league develop in my home country, I am proud to be a part of this process and I hope the people of Vanuatu will get behind this bid. I strongly believe Vanuatu has some wonderful rugby league players and through further development pathways I hope we can see more players playing at a very high standard which will further advance not only the Pacifique Treize cause but also the Vanuatu national team”.
Acting VRL President Antonio Korikalo added “We are very supportive of the Pacifique Treize bid and have been consulted and engaged throughout the entire process by the bid team. The Pacifique Treize bid aligns with our objectives, particularly to provide pathway opportunities for talented Ni-Vanuatu into high-performance programs and into semi-professional and professional playing opportunities and showcasing top-level rugby league in Vanuatu. We are currently working on a partnership agreement to formalise our relationship and how we will jointly deliver VRL / Pacifique Treize activities in Vanuatu moving forward”.
Supporters are encouraged “register as a fan” at www.pacifique13.com to be a part of historic upcoming promotions and engagement opportunities, including a competition to select the mascot and team name which will happen later in 2020.