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|Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent, NRL.com
Two years after sensationally declaring he would never play for Papua New Guinea again, Cronulla hooker James Segeyaro has let go of the anger that surrounded his father’s passing in order to help unify an entire nation and perhaps even captain his country.
In September 2015 Segeyaro played against the Kumuls for the Prime Minister’s XIII in Port Moresby after believing his father had been disrespected by those running the PNG at the time of his passing.
It infuriated the 26-year-old so much that he declared he would never again represent the country of his birth but after returning to the NRL with Cronulla and with PNG to host three World Cup matches later this year Segeyaro has revealed for the first time the reasons behind his decision to again play for the Kumuls.
With Michael Marum in charge of both the Intrust Super Cup PNG Hunters team and the national side with assistance from former PNG representatives in John Wilshere, David Westley and Marcus Bai, Segeyaro desperately wants to return to the fold, his captaincy aspirations a far cry from the stance he took two years ago.
Born in Goroka, Segeyaro has represented the Kumuls just once back in 2011 but told NRL.com that he is ready to let go of the pain of the past in order to help build a more prosperous PNG for the future.
“I’m definitely playing for them this year, I’ve put my hand up,” Segeyaro told NRL.com.
“It’s under a new organsiation with John Wilshere and Michael Marum and it was more behind the scenes of what I didn’t really agree on.
“The new staff and the personnel behind the PNG Rugby League that have taken over have a goal that’s constructive to my goal that I want to move forward in the sense of bringing the country to where I believe it could be. Be a pioneer of not only rugby league moving forward in PNG but the whole of PNG.
“There are so many reasons that I believe PNG can come out of that third-world sort of figure. Why can’t we be like New Zealand and Australia? Why can’t we move forward like that?
“It’s something that I’ve come to realise, that I can’t really hold grudges and I can’t close doors.
“It is where I was born so I can’t really turn my back on that country. I feel that I need to help them as much as possible and if they need me playing footy and doing stuff and using that as a tool.”
A win over the Townsville Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon has the PNG Hunters three points clear of Redcliffe at the top of the table with two rounds to go in the Intrust Super Cup, building a sense of excitement amongst the rugby league-mad people of PNG that will climax with three World Cup games in Port Moresby against Wales, Ireland and the United States.
For such a proud rugby league nation it promises to be the most significant year in the sport’s history and Segeyaro understands the importance of the opportunity ahead of them.
“It’s a massive year for PNG footy and we need to take full advantage and strike while the iron’s hot,” he said.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves, we need to work together and be collectively not just as a team but the whole country get behind it.
“We’ve got to earn respect I believe and it will come. We can’t get ahead of ourselves, we’ve got to take it game by game and make sure we have a good training camp.”
Brisbane Broncos winger David Mead and Hunters five-eighth Ase Boas have captained the Kumuls in their Pacific Test wins over Fiji and the Cook Islands the past two years and Segeyaro said he would be honoured if he was chosen to lead the team out in the World Cup.
“It would be a massive honour,” Segeyaro said. “If they appointed me I would take it with both hands definitely.
“I’ll definitely put my hand up but that’s up to the board and if they think I’m fit enough to be the captain then so be it.
“I’ll just be happy to put on the jersey again.”