Papua New Guinea World Nines captain James Segeyaro hopes the October 18 tournament will help emerging rugby league nations like PNG unearth the next generation of superstars.
Segeyaro also spoke of his enormous pride at again being named Kumuls captain just a few short years after making the agonising decision to refuse to represent his home nation due to problems with the board.
The Broncos hooker said a lack of structured pathways for players from countries such as PNG made it harder to develop top-line talent and pointed to the example of Storm centre Justin Olam, who has gone from reserve grader at the start of the year to keeping gun centre Curtis Scott out of the Melbourne 17.
“We’ve got so much talent coming through, that’s what events like these are good for us and the Pacific Nations is good,” Segeyaro told NRL.com.
“That talent wouldn’t be recognised normally and it allows us as a country to keep moving forward as a team and trying to build to get ourselves up towards a first tier nation platform.”
Segeyaro was also hoping to draw on UK-based talent; former Kumuls skipper David Mead and departed Bulldogs sensation Rhyse Martin are among the PNG Test talent currently in the Super League.
“The more people we have playing overseas and sharpening their skills in competitions like Super League and NRL, even State Cup is beneficial for us because it starts from a young age and grassroots all the way up,” Segeyaro added.
“The more exposure we can get the better for the whole of Papua New Guinea.
“You look at Justin Olam at the Storm, he’s killing it. You give kids like that an opportunity to be in a system like that for a couple of years and you can just see naturally Papua New Guineans have a lot of ball talent.
“It’s about nurturing that and finding the best way for them to play the game and best way for them to get coached. There’s so much our country can give.
“You’ve already seen with all the Fijians in the game, it’s good for the whole of rugby league to have little world cups like this so you can see the next Semi Radradra, the Maika Sivo or Justin Olam, you can see them coming from a young age and hopefully they get scouted and go forward with their career and be great for each individual nation.”
Segeyaro made no attempt to hide his excitement at getting the chance to captain his country again.
“I’m a second generation Kumul; my dad played for Papua New Guinea and following in his footsteps is one thing but to captain a nation is another, it’s such an honour and a privilege,” he said.
“Sometimes it seems surreal. Life happens pretty quick sometimes! A couple of years back I wasn’t even playing for Papua New Guinea, I was playing for Australia [in the PM’s XIII] but my alliances changed, new people came to the board of the PNG RFL. For me to get an opportunity is amazing.
“Representing 800 different cultures and dialects, 8 million people, the jersey means so much to us.
“We’re really proud where we’re from and you can really tell that when the national anthem comes on, it’s really emotional coming from where we come from, a lot of poverty in Papua New Guinea, places that don’t have opportunity like we have in Australia so being able to represent the people and my country and my family is probably the highlight of my career.”
Segeyaro experienced the Nines format during the Auckland Nines in his Penrith days and believes the reduced format will level the playing field for less structured teams like PNG.
“The teams you think are going to win the competition or look good on paper are not necessarily the teams that do well,” he said.
“It’s a totally different game plan compared to 13 on 13 and a more fun way to play.
“It’s a real high-energy type of game and a different feel about the game with everyone there having fun and having a laugh, there’s not that real seriousness about it.
“We tend to play with heart on our sleeves us Papua New Guineans, the 13-a-side in 80 minutes doesn’t always work in our favour because you have to keep a certain intensity for 80 minutes but when you’re only out there for 18 minutes it will definitely work in our favour.
“Teams like us and Fiji and Samoa, we really love throwing the ball around. It makes us exciting to watch it, it’s going to be good for us and hopefully we can put a good campaign in and this will be our – not warm up but a good run to blow the cobwebs out for the players not in the finals because we have some Tests coming up.”