By MELTON PAIS
BACK-rower Nixon Put had a dream debut for Papua New Guinea in the Pacific test earlier in the month.
The 22-year-old scored the try that sewed up a 32-22 win over the Cook Islands in the first match of a triple header at the Campbelltown Sports Stadium on May 6.
Put back up a break out of dummy half by the impressive Tommy Butterfield and got the offload and beat the Kukis’cover defence on a 20m-run to the line.
It has been a meteoric rise for the Western Highlander, who had only made the Hunters squad for the 2017 season, and had little elite level experience to speak of.
Prior to being drafted into Michael Marum’s squad for the Q-Cup, Put had been a rising star for the Hagen Eagles. One of the new brigade of Hagen Eagles forwards turning heads in the country’s semi-professional Digicel Cup.
Put along with fellow Eagles back-rower Moses Meninga and prop McKenzie Yei were ear-marked for big things.
The 180cm, 95kg forward has been the first to crack a representative jersey of the trio and looks set to be a regular feature in the Hunters back-row for years to come.
Put together with Ipswich Jets winger and fellow Western Highlander Richard Pandia made their debuts for PNG that day while Butterfield, who had last represented a PNG side (internationals) a decade ago, was the other man to be earn a proper test cap.
The humble man from the Moge tribe in the Hagen Central district said he was surprised he was even in the running for a national call up but treated the opportunity given my Marum and the selectors as another game to learn and gain from.
The try was just a bonus.
“I was shocked after I scored the try,” Put said.
“It didn’t sink in until I saw the replay on the big screen,” Put, who was mobbed by teammates said of his special moment, said.
“Man, I was lost for words and I think I had some tears as well. I couldn’t hold it back.
“I’ve played several Hunters game in Brisbane but the feeling that I got as soon as I put on the Kumul jumper was something else.
“I felt that, every move that I made on the field was followed by all our fans at home and I was so nervous but I’m just so lucky everything worked out and we won.”
Coach Marum was pleased with Put’s performance saying the young man was named as part of the extended bench but was needed on match day after the suspension of Willie Minoga as well as the unavailability of Nene Macdonald in the lead up to the test.
“Young Nixon is really committed to his training and has impressed me with that part of his attitude since he came into the Hunters system,” Marum said.
“His aspirations and perseverance as someone who has always wanted to be part of the Hunters side has brought him this far.
“It was a bonus for him to be selected for PNG and then to play in the test. It’s probably his biggest achievement so far.
“He deserved that Kumuls jersey and I’m just happy he took his chance coming off the bench and playing his role and then scoring that try.”
Marum said Put would need to maintain his form over the season but on what had shown so far, it would not be a problem.
By MELTON PAIS