Nene Macdonald’s PNG pledge as NRL dream edges closer

NENE Macdonald has declared he will do everything he can to support Papua New Guinea’s bid to get a team in the NRL, including signing up to play for his birth country in their maiden campaign.

Calls for the NRL to expand into Port Moresby are growing louder by the year, given the island nation’s love of rugby league and ability to produce athletes.

Australian coach and league legend Mal Meninga has led the charge, while other figures such as Matty Johns and James Graham have backed PNG entering the world’s best competition.

Laurie Daley declared it should happen by 2020, after watching the Kumuls wallop Wales in the opening round of the World Cup.

“Put them straight in (the NRL). In 2020 put PNG straight into the competition,” Daley said.

Their claims were also strengthened by the PNG Hunters winning the Queensland Cup for the first time last year, just four years after entering the competition.

And now Macdonald — contracted to St George Illawarra for another two seasons — has become the first current NRL player to declare his interest in representing PNG if and when they enter the Australian-based league.

“A few of the boys who have played NRL would love to go back. Especially myself, I would love to play for them,” Macdonald told

“I love playing for the Dragons, but I will be very supportive of (PNG). It would be massive for PNG.

“They would bring a lot of crowd to their NRL games, and a lot of (TV) viewers too because the whole country will be behind every game they play.

“I would love to. Obviously it’s my country of birth and I’m always going to be supportive of them.

“If they had an NRL team I would love to play for them. At the moment my focus is here (at the Dragons).”

PNG co-hosted the World Cup and lit up the international stage with their performances on the field and their passion in the grandstand.

But while their Queensland Cup side is performing well and the love of rugby league can’t be questioned, Macdonald believes the country is still “five or six” years away from being able to enter the NRL.

He says Papua New Guinea must work on its junior pathways and strengthen the national competition before it can support a fully professional outfit.

Having grown up in Port Moresby, he knows first hand how much work needs to be done.

“I reckon they can do it but I don’t think they’ll be ready for another five or six years,” Macdonald said.

“They are pushing for it but personally I think they need to wait.

“I think the development at the moment, there’s so much potential there but they don’t have the development like here in the schools.

“There’s so many good players who played in our team last year but they’ve only played professionally for two years max, then they come and play the World Cup and they look out of place.

“The potential they have to bring players over here, there’s so many players, like Fiji. There’s so much talent around there and they love the game.”