Mead raring to go for World Cup homecoming
Papua New Guinea captain David Mead has one eye on the 2017 Rugby League World Cup after missing the Kumuls' clash with the Cook Islands in May earlier this year due to injury.
Played in Sydney, PNG won that match 32-22 with the result bringing much joy to the Kumuls' fans, among the most passionate in the game.
Rugby league is the national sport of PNG and that is why the upcoming World Cup will mean so much to not only Mead and his Kumuls teammates, but their loyal followers.
With PNG set to host its first World Cup match since 1991, Mead got a taste of what was to come when he travelled to the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby as part of the Wynnum Manly Seagulls' Round 24 fixture in the Intrust Super Cup.
The Seagulls faced the PNG Hunters who were playing for the minor premiership and it was standing room only as raucous fans watched the Hunters claim the silverware with a 28-22 victory.
The atmosphere was electric for both teams, with the stands at capacity as PNG fans warmed up their vocal chords for the World Cup that will be held across PNG, Australia and New Zealand from October.
Mead, who scored twice for Wynnum, said although it was a strange feeling playing against his countrymen, the crowd made it all worthwhile.
"It was good playing up there a couple of weeks ago. It's a bit of a weird feeling when you take on some of the guys you play with at an international level," Mead said.
"It's going to mean a lot to them (hosting the World Cup). I'm sure it will sell out pretty quick. The crowds show that there are a lot of people interested in supporting us as a nation.
"I think we can compete well. We'll have a few NRL players and a lot of the PNG Hunters players and they are going really well."
PNG should be able to go far in the competition after being drawn into a group consisting of minnows Ireland and Wales.
It means the Kumuls will not have to face any of 'the big three' nations until the finals, with Australia, New Zealand and England all on the other side of the draw.
Mead, who has never won a World Cup match from his six attempts, now has a chance to break this unwanted streak due to this favourable draw.
But when speaking to NRL.com, Mead did not care much for who his side would be playing, instead focusing on where they will be playing – at home in front of their loving fans.
"I'm excited. As soon as I heard we would have three home games there I was elated. It's getting closer and closer," he said.
"Obviously I have to stay ready to go out for the Broncos but the World Cup is in the back of my mind.
"It means the world to me going out and playing for them. Growing up as a kid over there you see rugby league as the national sport.
"All the kids in PNG want to play for their nation. To be able to go out and represent your country is such a special feeling."