Papua New Guinea star Dan Russell hoping for NRL breakthrough

Drew Darbyshire
Dan Russell Papua New Guinea SWpix

Photo: Olly Hassell/SWpix

Papua New Guinea ace Dan Russell hopes to make his NRL debut in the near future, and says he’d be up for playing in Super League further down the track.

The 26-year-old forward has played the majority of his career in the Queensland Cup, featuring in every game for Brisbane Tigers in 2022.

Russell has caught the eye on the international scene since making his debut for Papua New Guinea in 2019.

The Queensland-born back-rower, who is currently with the Papua New Guinea squad in England for the World Cup, still has aspirations to play in the NRL.

“Hopefully I’ve got an opportunity with the (St George Illawarra) Dragons next year with Flano (Shane Flanagan),” Russell told Love Rugby League after PNG’s 32-16 win over the Cook Islands on Tuesday. “We’ll just wait and see what happens with that but yeah, definitely (it’s a goal to play NRL).

“I had a couple of bad years with injury but this year I played every game and good things are starting to happen. Hopefully keep playing good footy and I can get that contract, that’s the plan.”

Russell, nicknamed Big Red, would even be keen on playing in England further down the line.

“I’d take anything in Super League,” he added. “My first goal is to make NRL and hopefully I’m close to doing that but down the track I’d definitely come out here (England), do a bit of travelling and what not, it’d be silly not to. Definitely an option, but probably just not now.”

Dan Russell: I love playing for PNG

Russell was born and raised in Queensland but qualifies to play for Papua New Guinea through his father, who was born in Madang.

“He grew up there until he was 16 and my grandparents worked over there at the time,” Russell side.

“It’s great to be allowed to play for PNG and it’s great to bring that back in the family.

“My grandfather is obviously very proud by being over there for a lot of years with work. It’s a great feeling. Hopefully it can keep coming because I love playing for PNG.

“If you are playing Q Cup and you go to play international footy, that’s the time to shine. Everyone is watching but not even that, playing for PNG is a dream come true.

“It’s hard to explain to anyone what it’s like in those sheds and when you run out with the boys. We are just so close and you just don’t want to let each other down. I think we’ll be alright for the rest of the tournament.

“We beat Great Britain over there in 2019 and that’s a moment I’ll never forget. The way we played and the crowd – it’s hard to explain. You need to be there to witness it, it’s a thing we need to do more often but it’s something you’ll never forget and just the passion of the crowd and playing for those eight million PNG people who are all watching. It’s a good feeling and you don’t want to let anyone down.”

Papua New Guinea will reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup if they beat Wales in their final group game next week.

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