Papua New Guinea young gun reflects on ‘unreal’ Kumuls experience as flier prepares for new NRL season

Drew Darbyshire
Robert Derby Papua New Guinea v Fiji 2022 PA

Photo: Steven Saphore/AAP/PA Images

North Queensland Cowboys winger Robert Derby said getting to represent Papua New Guinea again was an ‘unreal experience’ as he helped the Kumuls win the Pacific Bowl.

The 21-year-old flier made his international debut for his country in 2022 in a mid-season win over Fiji.

Derby won three more caps for the Kumuls this autumn, helping Justin Holbrook’s side clinch the inaugural Pacific Bowl with a win over Fiji in Port Moresby.

“It was unreal, honestly,” Derby told reporters via the Cowboys’ club website.

“Just the experience in camp with all the boys, it’s always something different.

“The brotherhood you share with the other boys there knowing you are playing for your country so you sort of have that connection there and just the people, the kids, the communities – it was unreal going to schools all the time and seeing the way they react to seeing some of their favourite players up on the stage and they are just cheering.

“They sat in the rain on one of our school trips all day just hoping for the opportunity to just see us or touch us, they literally just want to touch you and be like ‘oh my God, I just touched an NRL player!’ – it’s unreal.”

Robert Derby on Papua New Guinea’s love for rugby league: ‘They treat you like superstars’

Papua New Guinea is one of only two countries in the world where rugby league is the national sport, the other being the Cook Islands.

“When you are over there they treat you like superstars,” Derby added. “Just using that as motivation I guess just going into this season knowing that you are playing for all these people and little kids that don’t have all the opportunities in the world and being able to go back each time and see the impact you have on them is amazing.”

The Port Moresby-born winger, who made his NRL debut for the Cowboys earlier this year, said it was an ‘amazing’ feeling to represent his homeland and heritage this autumn.

“I always got calls from mum and dad after the game, and from my partner and her family,” he added.

“I saw a lot of my family whilst I was there and they were like ‘we’re so proud of you’ and I got lots of kit to bring back and give to family and stuff, so it was amazing.”

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