Dan Russell: Papua New Guinea star targeting NRL debut at 27

Drew Darbyshire
Dan Russell Papua New Guinea SWpix

Papua New Guinea international Dan Russell is enjoying his time on trial with St George Illawarra Dragons, with his goal to make his NRL debut this year.

The 27-year-old forward is currently on a train and trial deal with the Dragons. He impressed in their NRL pre-season challenge match against Super League champions St Helens on Saturday.

“I’m really enjoying it,” Russell told the club’s website. “I feel like I have fit in really well.

“It’s a great group here and I’ve really enjoyed pre-season now we’re starting to get into footy, so I can’t wait.

“I got it (the trial) through Shane Flanagan (assistant coach). He organised the train and trial at the mid-year test. He helped us out with the PNG squad, so I got it from him and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

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Dan Russell on his NRL goal

The Queensland-born forward has been knocking on the door of the NRL for several years now, but he has yet to make his debut.

But he’s still determined to make the first-grade after a couple of impressive years on the international scene with Papua New Guinea.

“I just want to play well in the trials and try to get a top 30 spot,” Russell said.

“I’m 27 now and I feel like it’s the right time for myself. It’s a big challenge ahead. I’ve got to do my best in that which I know I will and put my best foot forward for the team.

“I set monthly and yearly goals. That’s to make the top 30 and play NRL, that’s the main goal.

“I’m 27 now and I’ve been at a couple of clubs so that’s definitely a goal of mine to play NRL and try to stay down here as long as I can. I love it here and I’m really enjoying my time here.”

Proud to be a Kumul

Russell qualifies to represent Papua New Guinea through his father. He has won seven caps for Papua New Guinea so far, playing in every game at last year’s World Cup.

Speaking of his World Cup, Russell said: “It was an awesome experience. It was great to be a part of.

“I was just excited to be part of the squad to be able to play every game was great and I thought we did pretty well.

“In the last game it wasn’t a good start so it was a disappointing finish. We’ve got a good group there and a young group, so it’s pretty exciting times ahead for PNG.”

If Russell does make his NRL debut this year, he will be one of the oldest players to do so. In 2018, Darren Nicholls become the oldest rookie to make their NRL debut in the modern era at the age of 29 years and 81 days.

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