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PNG national cricketers become full-time professionals with new contracts

The steady emergence of Papua New Guinea’s Barramundis national cricket side has led the sport’s managing body in the country to introduce professional player contracts—a major step in the development of the sport in PNG.

Professionalism in Papua New Guinean cricket has taken a significant step forward after the national team’s players signed inaugural full-time contracts last month.

PNG’s national team, known as the Barramundis, is currently competing as full-time professionals for the first time in the South Australian Cricket Association’s (SACA) Premier League in Adelaide.

The move to full-time contracts supports PNG cricket’s steady rise up the world ranks, with the team now ranked 16th in one-day internationals (ODI) and also recognised by the International Cricket Council (ICC) with full ODI status.

The inaugural contracts, signed by 16 players, will last until the end of 2015 and include a full-time salary, travel allowances and match payments.

Beyond the inaugural deals, Cricket PNG plans to continue to sign its players on contracts for each calendar year, based on several factors around each individual’s performance.

Major achievement

According to Greg Campbell, General Manager of Cricket PNG, the contracts mark a major off-field achievement for cricket in the country, and involved a long but smooth process with the players.

‘We all came to a mutual agreement—the players, coaches and management,’ Campbell told Business Advantage PNG. ‘The contracts each year will be drawn up by a selection committee, our high performance manager and will be based on player performances, attitudes and fitness tests … just like they would do in Australia.

‘The players are all aware of how the contracts will work and they have really taken it on board quickly.’

On-field improvement

Campbell was hopeful the Barramundis’ transition into a more professional outfit would now translate into more on-field development and success.

Despite substantial improvement in recent years, the Barramundis have fallen agonisingly short of qualifying for both the Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh earlier this year and the ODI World Cup in Australia next year, where it would have faced the top ranked sides in the ICC.

Campbell said the standard of cricket had improved ‘out of sight’ during his time in PNG but there was still a long way to go in the development of the sport, both on and off the field, and having the team playing and training full-time would be significant move for the team’s future.

‘To be ranked in the top 16 gives us a lot more opportunities to play in more of these top level games. We have to play seven ODIs in the next 18 months, and three have to be in PNG, with three away and one on neutral ground,’ Campbell said.

‘That has been a big achievement, but just as big an achievement has been the attitude and professionalism of the players.’

Long-term development

While the Barramundi players are now regarded as full-time players, Cricket PNG’s push towards becoming a more professional organisation has been ongoing for several years, with the appointment of elite coaches and management part of a commitment to improving the standard of cricket in the country.

These appointments included Campbell, a former Australian Test player, as General Manager in 2011, and the signing of Jeetan Patel, a former New Zealand Test player, as head coach earlier this year.

Other initiatives PNG Cricket is pursuing to develop its squad include further involvement of players in first grade Australian cricket, such as the T20 Big Bash league and the Sheffield Shield state competition.