PAPUA NEW Guinea legend Makali Aizue believes his nation are finally reaping some benefits on the biggest stage.
The former Hull KR, Halifax and Dewsbury Rams prop will be a keen onlooker when the Kumuls face Ireland in today’s World Cup match.
They stunned Wales with a rampant 50-6 success at Port Moresby in their opener, their biggest- ever win in the competition, and another victry will leave them set for the quarter-finals.
Aizue, who represented PNG when they didn’t even register a solitary victory in the 2008 World Cup or Four Nations two years later, said: “That was a long time coming.
“Wales always used to beat us so to finally put one over them was great.
“Everyone is still buzzing about it. Ireland will be a lot tougher but it should be a quality contest.
“Our game is a lot stronger now compared to when people like me and Stan (Gene) played.
“Back then, we played for our village and our own province - just some would go overseas - so to then play international was hard.
“But now, with the PNG Hunters playing over in the Queensland Cup (and winning it this year), things have improved a lot.
“The players look sharp and now there’s more younger guys rather than just us older ones.
“The coach Michael Marum and his staff have done a great job and it should be a fine game against Ireland - if they can handle the heat in Port Moresby.”
Meanwhile, the average wage for a top NRL player will rise to nearly £200,000 a year as part of a new pay deal worth £566million that will have huge ramifications for Super League.
The National Rugby League finally reached agreement with the players union, bringing to an end more than 16 months of negotiations, which will see the salary cap increased to £5.4m next year and to more than £5.8m in 2022.
That compares to a salary cap in the Super League of £1.9m in 2018 and effectively rules out any more major recruits from the NRL.
The five-year collective bargaining agreement was unveiled at a press conference at Moore Park, next to the Sydney Football Stadium where England had just completed their captain’s run ahead of Saturday’s World Cup match against Lebanon.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg called it “an historic day” while Rugby League Players Association chief executive Ian Prendergast said: “This is a huge win for not only players but the game.”
Greenberg said the £566m deal will deliver extra funding for the players’ retirement fund, for players forced into early retirement due to injury and a world class well-being and education programme.
“For the first time, our players will receive a 29.5% share of forecast game revenue, as well as a share of any out-performance revenue,” Greenberg said.
“In other words, the better the game performs, the more the players will receive.”
Prendergast hailed the contribution of former Hull KR forward Clint Newton, described as “the heart and soul of the association”, for what he said is a new era for the game in which the players will have an active role.
Highlights of the agreement include:
A 52% increase in take-home pay for players over the next five years.
The average wage of a top-30 player will rise to £194,000 a year while the minimum wage will be increased to £58,000 next year and £69,000 in 2022.
The salary cap will rise to £5.4m next year and more than £5.8m in 2022.
A new injury hardship fund will be set up to support players facing early retirement due to serious injury and additional time off during the week for personal development.
The new deal was endorsed by Australia captain Cameron Smith in his role as RLPA general president.
“This deal will assist in the continual growth of the sport because for the first time ever, we will be genuinely recognised as partners in the game,” Smith said.