Robert Derby reflects on “unreal” Papua New Guinea debut as winger enjoys NRL pre-season

Josh McAllister
Robert Derby Papua New Guinea. PA Images

Robert Derby has reflected on his Papua New Guinea debut as the winger enjoys his first full senior pre-season with the North Queensland Cowboys ahead of 2023.

Derby, 20, made his international debut in the mid-season Pacific test against Fiji, 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 in Campbelltown.

His performance wasn’t enough to see him called up to their 24-man World Cup squad, but Derby has a full career ahead of him after joining the Cowboys’ NRL squad for the 2023 season.

“It was an unreal experience,” Derby told media earlier this week.

“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.”

Robert Derby on NRL opportunity

The talented youngster has been enjoying his first senior pre-season with the Cowboys, and remains grounded with his expectations, while he does hope to make his NRL debut.

He previously featured for Northern Pride in the Queensland Cup, scoring seven tries in 16 games in 2022.

“I think mainly keeping fit and healthy,” Derby said on his goals. “Improving my defence and aspects of that going into the season.

“I want to focus on finishing the pre-season being fit and healthy and then the main focus is to play a lot more consistent during the season.

“Everyone wants to debut in first grade, but I guess my goals for this coming season, I see myself as a replacement come Origin time or injuries.

“But basically I want to make my mark in the Queensland Cup season and then I guess it’ll all fall into place. You always have it in the back of your mind, but if you’re playing good footy, it’ll fall into place.”

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