Boas lives out childhood dream
Watson Boas will never forget the night he scored a double on his international debut in Papua New Guinea's heart-warming 24-22 win over Fiji on Saturday.
But that wasn't the highlight for the 21-year-old as he steered his side to a famous victory at Pirtek Stadium.
Surrounded by strapping and wet grass, you couldn't wipe the smile off his face after the game as he sat in the same Gatorade-soaked dressing room sheds that his childhood heroes had done over the years.
"When I was a kid I liked NRL and one of the most special things about tonight was getting to play at this ground," Boas told NRL.com after his side's thrilling two-point win.
"The Parramatta Eels are my favourite team so when I came here and saw the place it was a morale boosting thing for me.
"The reason I supported the Parramatta Eels as a boy was because of Timana Tahu. He was my favourite player and even though he is retired now I still support the Eels."
Boas's story is not a unique one for someone born in PNG given it is the only country in the world where rugby league is the national sport.
The country has its own team in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup (the PNG Hunters) and play in front of over 13,000 fans at their new National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.
"Rugby league is the number one sport in PNG so whenever rugby league is played, you will see supporters watching wherever they can," he said.
"My country will be very excited with the win. We did not win by a lot but at least we did win.
"The noise was very loud tonight. Everyone says we have crazy fans in PNG so tonight was quite normal for us."
The game itself is one Boas will never forget; the diminutive halfback scoring the game's opening try before popping up in the centres to give his side the lead 12 minutes into the second half.
"I am really excited after that game because it was my first time playing for my country," the PNG No.7 said.
"I played really well. I scored two tries so I'm really happy and all my countrymen will be really happy also."
Boas said fatigue took its toll on him towards the backend of both halves and admitted he was only in position to score his second try because of a knock he had picked up moments earlier.
"I was really tired at the end of it. I've got a lot of sore muscles now but it was worth it," the two-try hero continued.
"The Intrust Cup games are tough but they are not tough like international level. I tried my best to keep up because of the speed of the game so I'm glad I managed to complete the game.
"I hurt my shoulder so I told Nene (PNG centre Nene MacDonald) to move in to cover me in defence. When we were attacking the line, our hooker (Wartovo Puara Junior) saw me in some space and I was able to score the try."
The night was made even more special because Boas got to play with his older brother Ase who partnered him in the halves and kicked four goals.
The pair grew up playing together but it was the first time they had represented their country at international level as a halves pairing.
Boas lamented the fact he didn't have any family in the crowd at Pirtek to support him and his brother, but predicted there would have been a huge party back in PNG to cheer on the siblings.
"We didn't have any family here tonight but we have family back home so they will be watching us play on TV," he said.
"I hope they are really happy with our performance tonight because we wanted to make them proud."
Saturday night's game was a wonderful advertisement for the development of rugby league in Papua New Guinea and continued the impressive form shown by the Hunters in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup over the past two years.
The Hunters finished the 2015 season in second place and were eventually knocked out in the preliminary final, and have continued that form with seven wins from the opening nine rounds to have them sitting equal first with the Townsville Blackhawks.
Boas conceded funding and logistics would make an NRL bid difficult in the short term, but hoped that his country would one day have its own team in the NRL.
The Kumuls had 10 Hunters players in their team on Saturday night, and the halfback said that bond would help them make the transition to first grade.
In the meantime, Boas said he would gladly accept the opportunity if an NRL club approached him for a contract on the back of his star showing against Fiji.
"I think if they accept us to play for the NRL then we would make it because we know each other and we speak the same language so it will be easy for us to play on a big stage like that," he said.
"If an NRL coach wants me to play for his team then I would be really happy and excited to play on the big stage."