De Belin closes door on PNG


JACK de Belin will turn his back on the chance to join Papua New Guinea ahead of the Rugby League World Cup, saying he would feel like “a fraud” if he took the place of someone with a stronger connection to the country.
Kumuls officials had reached out to the St George Illawarra Dragons middle forward before PNG face Fiji at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night.
But de Belin says it wouldn’t feel right to lace up the boots for a country he has never felt a genuine connection with. He qualifies for the Kumuls via his maternal grandmother, who was born there but does not have Papua New Guinean heritage.
“I’d love to help out and what not, but I just don’t feel like it is right,” de Belin said.
“I’m taking away a spot from someone who is actually from PNG and deserves it.
“That’s why I feel like a bit of a fraud in a sense. I’ve never been there, I’ve never had any connection to the culture or the people. Maybe if I’d been over there a couple of times or got to know a bit more of the culture, I’d have a bit more to do with it.
“As of right now, it just wouldn’t be right for me.”
The 31-year-old said he had often been tempted to accept an offer to join the Kumuls and realise a dream of playing international football.
But de Belin still has a burning ambition to represent Australia, having played three State of Origin games for New South Wales in 2018.
So when PNG will face Fiji as part of a Pacific Test double-header with Samoa and the Cook Islands, de Belin will take a weekend off after the Dragons trounced South Sydney in Wollongong on Thursday.
South Sydney’s all-time leading try scorer Alex Johnston headlines coach Stanley Tepend’s Kumuls side, which also features Melbourne centre Justin Olam, Brisbane winger David Mead and Roosters half Lachlan Lam.
“There’s always a temptation there,” de Belin said. “Everyone has the urge to play representative football.
“My No.1 goal is always to play for Australia, and hopefully at some point in my career I can do that. The clock is ticking. I think everyone has a goal of playing representative football.
“I’ve thought about it for sure.
“When Adrian Lam was my 20s coach, obviously it was tossed up then but I was too young and I didn’t feel comfortable. I’m a bit more old now but I still get a similar feeling in that sense.” – SMH