Papua New Guinea will have nine of their international players plying their trade in Super League next season across six clubs.
Three of those nine are new arrivals to the UK having been recruited by top flight clubs ahead of the upcoming campaign, while another will also get his first taste of Super League having been promoted with London Broncos.
Below, we’ve taken a look at all nine Kumuls aces, detailing a little bit about their career to date and how they’ve found their way to Super League. They are alphabetised by surname.
Liam Horne (Castleford Tigers)
Port-Moresby native Horne linked up with Castleford back in July, penning a deal until the end of the 2024 season, and is now one of three PNG aces in the squad at the Jungle.
The 25-year-old made a total of five appearances for the Tigers before the end of the season just gone, helping them over the line in their quest for Super League survival.
Internationally, he went on to feature in the inaugural Pacific Championships, appearing off the bench as an interchange in the final against Fiji as the Kumuls lifted the first-ever Pacific Bowl. He now has three caps.
Edwin Ipape (Leigh Leopards)
Hooker Ipape – who has 10 international appearances to his name – has been a huge part of Leigh’s story since he joined ahead of the 2022 campaign. With 23 tries in 27 appearances, he helped to lead the charge as the then-Centurions won the Championship last year along with the 1895 Cup.
Having been crowned the Championship Player of the Year, the Mount Hagen native then continued his shining form in Super League, featuring 28 times this term and scoring eight tries for Adrian Lam’s side.
One of those 28 club appearances in 2023 came under the arch at Wembley as the Leopards lifted the Challenge Cup for the first time in 52 years thanks to a moment of magic from the man below.
Lachlan Lam (Leigh Leopards)
Alongside Ipape and three other team-mates, half-back Lam was named in the Super League Dream Team this year, helping dad Adrian’s side into the top tier’s play-offs for the first time in the club’s history as well as winning the Challenge Cup.
The 25-year-old – who was actually born in Sydney, Australia – won the Lance Todd Trophy for his performance under the arch, scoring a try and eventually kicking the winning one-pointer with an ice cool drop goal in golden point extra time to down Hull KR.
Lam Jr has six tries in 10 Kumuls appearances at present, and joined Leigh midway through the 2022 season from NRL outfit Sydney Roosters. He’s closing in on the milestone of 50 run outs in a Leopards shirt.
Nene Macdonald (Salford Red Devils)
29-year-old Maconald – with 16 PNG appearances under his belt – is another name which adds to the connection between Leigh and PNG, taking his first steps into the British game with the then-Centurions in 2022 having joined on the back of a stop-start year Down Under.
Born in Port Moresby, the pacy outside-back had previously donned a shirt in the NRL for Sydney Roosters, Gold Coast Titans, St George Illawarra Dragons, North Queensland Cowboys and Cronulla Sharks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he took the Championship by storm, scoring 27 tries in as many appearances during Leigh’s promotion campaign before leaving for Leeds Rhinos.
Just two tries in 20 games for the Rhinos followed however before he returned to Australia for the birth of his child towards the back end of the season. Having not returned as planned, he left Headingley ‘by mutual consent’, but has sealed a return to Super League with Salford from 2024, penning a long-term deal until the end of the 2027 season.
Rhyse Martin (Leeds Rhinos)
Of the nine players on this list, Queensland native Martin – who represents PNG through his father – is by far and away the most experienced in Super League having been with Leeds since mid-2019.
In the four-and-a-half years since his arrival from NRL outfit Canterbury Bulldogs, the 30-year-old has scored 30 tries and kicked 352 goals in 104 appearances, also representing the Combined Nations All Stars against England in 2022.
Where PNG are concerned, Martin has featured 17 times for the Kumuls. Reports circled ahead of the Pacific Bowl final against Fiji that he would become the nation’s most-capped player ever, but as we understand it, legendary second-rower Max Tiri is still some way ahead of him.
Sylvester Namo (Castleford Tigers)
Powerhouse prop Namo’s move to Castleford ahead of 2024 was confirmed back in October, with the 23-year-old signing a two-year deal at the Jungle.
Born in the town of Goroka, Namo moved to Mount Hagen as a youngster and began his rugby league journey with the KK Brothers Vikings in 2019. After a stint with the Lae Snax Tigers, the forward then began playing Down Under in the Queensland Cup for the PNG Hunters.
Debuting on the international stage last year and featuring at the delayed World Cup to take his cap tally up to four, Namo’s impressive performances earned him a ‘train and trial’ contract in the NRL with the North Queensland Cowboys, though he joins Cas without having made a first-grade club appearance.
Nixon Putt (Castleford Tigers)
Rounding off the Tigers’ trio of Kumuls is Putt, who too has made the move to the Jungle from Down Under ahead of 2024, also signing a two-year deal.
The 27-year-old – who hails from Mount Hagen – had been with the North Queensland Capras since 2021, plying his trade in the Queensland Cup. Prior, he’d also featured in the same competition for the PNG Hunters and Norths Devils, who are a feeder team for this year’s beaten NRL Grand Finalists Brisbane Broncos.
Internationally, Putt’s been involved with the Kumuls since 2017, and after this year’s Pacific Championships, he has 15 appearances to his name having started all four of last year’s World Cup games for Justin Holbrook’s side, scoring a brace of tries in a 36-0 rout of Wales.
Rodrick Tai (Warrington Wolves)
Another Kumul recruited by a Super League side ahead of 2024 is utility Tai, who has been brought in on a deal until the end of 2024 by Warrington with the option of a further year in the club’s favour.
The 24-year-old has six international caps to his name, and has already featured at his new home, playing for PNG against the Cook Islands at the Halliwell Jones Stadium last October, a game which they won 32-16.
Like some of those listed above, Mount Hagen’s Tai – who by trade is a centre but can also play on the wing or in the second row – has gained experience Down Under with the PNG Hunters in the Queensland Cup.
Emmanuel Waine (London Broncos)
27-year-old Waine hails from the Jiwaka Province, and too will get his first shot at Super League next season having penned a new deal in the capital after helping London back to the big time for the first time since 2019.
In his first year in England, the utility appeared 14 times as the Broncos – underdogs throughout – earned promotion via the Championship play-offs, beating Toulouse Olympique away from home in the final having already dispatched both Sheffield Eagles and league leaders Featherstone Rovers.
Debuting for the Kumuls last year ahead of the World Cup, he has three caps to his name. Waine also previously featured for the PNG Hunters.
Other Papua New Guinea internationals plying their trade in England
PNG’s flag isn’t just shown in Super League, but the Championship too. Newly-promoted Doncaster, Featherstone Rovers and Whitehaven each have a pair of Kumuls aces in their pack, while Bradford Bulls have managed to retain Keven Appo.
All seven of the players listed below will compete in the second tier in 2024, alphabetised by the name of the club they play for.
Keven Appo (Bradford Bulls)
Jason Tali (Doncaster)
Watson Boas (Doncaster)
McKenzie Yei (Featherstone Rovers)
Wellington Albert (Featherstone Rovers)
Edene Gebbie (Whitehaven)
Dion Aiye (Whitehaven)