Papua New Guinea international set for NRL debut this weekend

Drew Darbyshire
Robert Derby Papua New Guinea v Fiji 2022 PA

Photo: Steven Saphore/AAP/PA Images

Papua New Guinea international Robert Derby says it feels ‘surreal’ that he will make his NRL debut for North Queensland Cowboys on Friday.

The 21-year-old, who made his international debut for the Kumuls in last year’s mid-season win over Fiji, linked up with the Cowboys’ NRL squad ahead of this season.

And after impressing in the Queensland Cup, Derby will make his first-grade debut for the Cowboys when they travel to Parramatta Eels on Friday night.

“It’s surreal,” Derby told reporters on “I still haven’t had chance to soak it all in. I’m hoping in the next few days I will but it still doesn’t feel real still.

“I think my main focus this year was being consistent in Q Cup. In the back of my mind that (NRL debut) is everyone’s goal in the end but I didn’t think it’d be anywhere close to this.

“A couple of the boys were saying ‘just keep playing good, hopefully your time will come’ and it all just worked out in the end and the timing was right.”

Also making his NRL debut for the Cowboys is Zac Laybutt, the younger brother of Papua New Guinea international half-back Kyle. Zac has yet to play for the Kumuls, but has previously stated his desire to do so in the future.

Robert Derby: Playing for PNG an unreal experience

Derby played his first game for the Kumuls as they beat Fiji 24-12 in Campbelltown mid-season last year, featuring on the wing.

A brace from Lachlan Lam and further tries from McKenzie Yei and former captain David Mead saw them claim a 24-12 victory over Fiji.

“It was an unreal experience,” Derby told back in December.

“I’ve always dreamt of playing for PNG. Every time I go back, there’s not one person in the street not wearing a Kumuls jersey.

“It meant a lot to my family and myself of course. I got a bit of love there. It was a bummer I missed out on the World Cup, but there’s plenty more opportunities.”

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