Everyone’s favourite second team: Nene Macdonald appreciating the love for Papua New Guinea

Drew Darbyshire
Nene Macdonald Papua New Guinea Leeds Rhinos Rohan Smith

Papua New Guinea star Nene Macdonald says the Kumuls appreciate the warm support they’ve received from fans all over the globe during the World Cup.

The Kumuls fell short against Tonga in their World Cup opener before claiming their first win of the tournament against the Cook Islands on Tuesday.

Stanley Tepend’s side will make the quarter-finals if they beat Wales in their final group game next week.

“I feel like being here we are almost like everyone’s second team, especially in England,” Macdonald said.

“Everyone goes for England but I feel like we get so much support for not only my boys at Leigh – they all support the PNG boys – they support England first but we get so much support as well. It’s amazing seeing people cheering PNG. We are such a small nation so it has a big effect.

“If you ever get the chance to go over there (to Papua new Guinea) and experience what it’s like, it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen before. We go to games with the bus rocking, so you can imagine what it’s like going to a game there and how much they love it. They love watching any team play too.”

Nene Macdonald proud to pull on the PNG jersey again

Macdonald has enjoyed a stellar year, having won promotion to Super League with Leigh as well as representing his country for the first time in four years.

“It’s been an amazing year,” Macdonald told Love Rugby League. “It’s pretty good when you are winning every game but coming into the World Cup tops the year off.

“It means so much to me putting this jersey on. It’s been four years since I last put it on because of injury and being away from the game, finding my way back and getting a shot at Leigh. It’s been a long journey and very emotional journey. Since I’ve been back it’s like I never left.

“The boys are have nothing but support. I think you can see the effect it has on others. We love playing rugby league, I love playing rugby league and I love pulling the Kumuls jersey on.”

Kumuls rising

The Kumuls aren’t just here to take part. They want to achieve something special at this World Cup, inspiring the next generation in their homeland.

“I definitely think we’ve got the team,” Macdonald added. “We’ve had players play alongside each other for many years now. Since I last played in 2017, it’s almost the same team and we’ve gelled a lot.

“We are doing our own style, we’re rising up and bringing our own Kumuls style. Hopefully we are having an effect on this World Cup and not just being a part of it.

“We want to make a difference and we want to lift that trophy one day, not just for our team but our nation where the number one sport is rugby league.”

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