We’re creating how each nation could line-up ahead of the World Cup, in collaboration with He Can Play For. This week, it’s Papua New Guinea!
In these weekly feature pieces, we are selecting our predicted side who can represent Papua New Guinea. This can include players born in that country, with heritage to the nation or even residency.
How Papua New Guinea could line-up at the World Cup
1. Ragarive Wavik
The North Queensland Cowboys full-back is regarded as one of the hottest prospects in world rugby league. He was born in Port Moresby and has already represented the Junior Kangaroos, but also dreams of representing his motherland one day.
2. Alex Johnston
Johnston was born in Sydney and is of Papua New Guinean and Torres Strait Islander heritage. He made his international debut for Australia in 2015 before playing for Papua New Guinea in 2019.
The 27-year-old won the NRL Premiership with the Rabbitohs in 2014. He has scored 150 tries in 179 games for the club.
3. Justin Olam
Chumbu-born Olam is one of the best centres in the world right now. The 28-year-old has already won nine caps for his country and will be hoping to play in his second World Cup this autumn.
Olam has scored 36 tries in 76 games for Melbourne. He helped Storm win the NRL Premiership in 2020.
4. Nene Macdonald
The 28-year-old has proven to be a brilliant signing for promotion-chasing Championship side Leigh.
Port Moresby-born Macdonald has won nine caps for the Kumuls. He could play in his third World Cup this year if selected by coach Stanley Tepend.
5. Xavier Coates
Port Moresby-born Coates, 21, is one of the best wingers in the NRL at present. He has scored 28 tries in 43 NRL games for Brisbane and Melbourne.
Coates made his international debut for his country in 2019 and has since played six times for Queensland in the State of Origin arena.
6. Kyle Laybutt
The 26-year-old was born in Bundaberg, Queensland and is of Papua New Guinean descent.
Laybutt made two appearances in the NRL for North Queensland Cowboys between 2017-18, but has more recently been playing in the Queensland Cup. He is currently plying his trade for the Townsville Blackhawks.
7. Lachlan Lam
Lam, the son of Papua New Guinea legend Adrian, has a very bright future ahead of him. The 24-year-old has already made more than 30 NRL appearances for Sydney Roosters since making his first-grade debut in 2019.
He played in the 2017 World Cup and put in a starring performance in their win over Fiji mid-season.
8. Wellington Albert
Albert has been plying his trade in the UK since initially joining Widnes in 2018. He has since played for Leeds, Featherstone, Keighley and now London Broncos.
The 27-year-old has played seven games for his homeland. He has been part of two World Cups for the Kumuls.
9. James Segeyaro
Segeyaro is a familiar face to fans in both hemispheres. The 31-year-old had a stint with Super League giants Leeds in 2016.
The Goroka-born hooker has made more than 150 appearances in the NRL for the Cowboys, Panthers, Sharks and Broncos. He has won five caps for Papua New Guinea and played in the 2017 World Cup.
10. Moses Meninga
The 29-year-old will play in his second World Cup this autumn if selected by newly appointed head coach Tepend.
Meninga helped the PNG Hunters win the Queensland Cup in 2017. He is currently playing for Townsville Blackhawks.
11. Rhyse Martin
Leeds forward Martin was born in Cairns, Queensland and is of Papua New Guinean descent through his father, who is from Hula in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea.
The 29-year-old has played 11 times for the Kumuls and played in the last World Cup. He also played in the Nines World Cup in 2019.
12. Dan Russell
Russell was born in Queensland and is of Papua New Guinean heritage through his father, who was born in Port Moresby.
The 26-year-old forward currently plays for Brisbane Tigers in the Queensland Cup. He could play in his first World Cup this year.
13. Edwin Ipape
Ipape has proven to be a wonderful signing for Leigh this year. He is already a fan’s favourite on the terraces at the Leigh Sports Village.
He has plenty of utility value as well, being able to play hooker, loose forward or even in the halves.
14. Bailey Biondi-Odo
Biondi-Odo was born in Australia and is of Indigenous, Papua New Guinea, Italian and English descent.
The 20-year-old half-back or hooker has made 17 appearances in the NRL for Canterbury Bulldogs so far. He has yet to play for the Kumuls.
15. McKenzie Yei
The 25-year-old powerhouse front-rower is currently playing for the Central Queensland Capras.
Yei scored on his Papua New Guinea debut in their win over Fiji in the mid-season Pacific test.
16. Nixon Putt
The 26-year-old also plays for the Central Queensland Capras in the Queensland Cup.
Putt, who can play anywhere in the forward pack, has scored 21 tries in 92 Queensland Cup games. He played for the Kumuls in the last World Cup.
17. Cruise Ten
Ten, 21, has a huge future in the game. He is currently playing for the Souths Logan Magpies in the Queensland Cup.
The Mount Hagan-born forward could play in his first World Cup at the end of the year.