Sam Davis

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Cairns to play crucial role in PNG’s QBL dreams

A former Cairns Marlin says he wants a Papua New Guinean team in the Queensland Basketball League.


Papua New Guinean basketball is hoping to follow in the footsteps of its rugby league compatriots and play elite sport in the sunshine state.

The country’s under-18 national team toured Cairns this week, playing two matches against Cairns representative squads last weekend. 

PNG Basketball executive officer Joel Khalu says the tour is the first step towards joining the Queensland Basketball League’s men’s and women’s competitions.

“Part of our strategic plan is to get Papua New Guinean sides into the league,” Khalu says.

“We haven’t progressed that but we want to get our players to a higher level and feel that’s a good way to do it.

“We’ll speak to Basketball Queensland about it but it’s something we think is important to keep players in the game.”

A former Cairns Marlins star, Khalu coached the junior team to a 1-1 record while in tropical north Queensland.

He says the experience for many boys was life changing. 

“It’s the first time in a long time a Papua New Guinean side has come down to play some Cairns sides,” Khalu says.

“10 out of the 12 players had never been on a plane before.

“Most of them didn’t have passports. The aim was to make it not just a basketball experience but also a life experience.

“They were excited about sleeping in their own bed at the hotel. Some of them don’t have that back home.”

Cairns has already helped foster some PNG talent, with Marlins forward Aaron Farmer also suiting up for the men’s national team.

Khalu says tropical north Queensland can play a major role in developing PNG’s elite talent in the future.

“This tour has built a foundation for those future plans,” he says.

“There are a number of players I’d love to get into school down here and build a partnership there.

“That way they’re playing more, they’re training more and have access to higher level games.”

Around 50 basketball teams from provinces across Papua New Guinea will compete in the PNG Games this March.

“It’s great opportunity to see what the regional provinces can bring and kickstarts our 2017 calendar,” Khalu says.

The PNG Hunters currently play in Queensland Rugby League's Intrust Super Cup competition.