No mixed feelings for Aussie Segeyaro
Papua New Guinea-born Penrith hooker James Segeyaro says he has no qualms about pulling on the green and gold of Australia against the PNG Kumuls in this Saturday's annual Prime Minister's XIII fixture in Port Moresby, having turned his back on representing the country of his birth again.
Segeyaro has played for the Kumuls against the Aussies previously, in 2011, but has committed to trying to make it representing the country he grew up in from the age of seven and the country he said he owes a lot to – and has no plans to represent PNG again because of the way he said his late father was treated by the sport over there.
"No, not really," was Segeyaro's reply to whether he expects there to be mixed emotions when he lines up against the Kumuls.
"I haven't really thought about it. It's early days but when the time comes to put the green and gold on it's going to be very emotional."
Segeyaro told NRL.com that he made a "personal decision" to distance himself from PNG rugby league when he returned home for the funeral of his father and learned that his father had not been treated with the respect he deserved by PNG Rugby League.
"It was a personal decision for me from how the PNG rugby league board, the people treated my dad – since his passing, I went up for the funeral and found out a couple of things I wasn't too happy about," Segeyaro said.
"He did so much for PNG rugby league and how he got treated [wasn't right], I already played for the Kumuls so I just decided that was it and moved away from that.
"I aspire to do things, a goal I set for myself was to play for the Kangaroos and Queensland. Seeing as I pretty much grew up in Australia I feel like I owe a lot to the green and gold."
Segeyaro will have a deeper insight than any of his teammates as to what to expect on the trip to PNG, which he said will be "overwhelming, humbling and just an eye-opener, really."
"I've been there a couple of times before with the Kumuls, I know what it's like. You're treated like gods up there and you bring a lot away from the experience and understand why we play the game and how much they love it up there."
The passion for the sport in PNG – the only country that claims rugby league as its national sport – can spill over at times, including a number of deaths following fights over State of Origin results in recent years.
"Obviously there's been a couple of incidents happenings around the Origin, people dying and what not, so it means a lot to them. It's like how the soccer gets treated over in the UK. Honestly it is a religion up there, a rugby league jersey's like gold," Segeyaro said.
"It's going to be a good experience playing for the Kangaroos this time. I'm really looking forward to it and hopefully I'll do the country proud.
"I never thought this day would come so soon. It's just an honour for me to be in the same room as all these players that are so talented and pretty much the next Roos coming through so very excited to play alongside these blokes."
Segeyaro nominated Raiders fullback Jack Wighton, Knights centre and recent Maroons debutant Dane Gagai, and his 2016 Panthers teammate Trent Merrin as players he couldn't wait to get into camp and train with.
"It's going to be very enjoyable. It's going to be a good happy camp. All the boys are pumped talking about it, a lot of the boys haven't experienced it, it's going to be eye opening and good to sit down and watch them lose their marbles, it's going to be an eye-opener. It'll be crazy," Segeyaro said.
"It's so exciting and I just can't wait to start training and be around the team, talking to the boys and making combinations that could be playing together in the next couple of years."
The Kumuls will be close to full strength given their Intrust Super Cup side, the Hunters, was knocked out one game short of the final over the weekend, eliminating the chances of an availability drama next weekend for PNG players.
It is still a fantastic achievement in their second year in the competition, and Segeyaro said the regular top-grade football is good for the development of the sport in the country.
"Hopefully we see some more good PNG kids coming through the under-20s and hopefully into first grade," he said.