World Cup hunger grows after Test debut
HE got a taste of representative football on Saturday, and Richard Pandia wants more.
One of the premiership-winning Ipswich Jets players of 2015, the young winger received his first chance to pull on the yellow and red jersey of the PNG Kumuls.
Running onto the field at Campbelltown Stadium against Cook Island is an occasion he won't be forgetting any time soon.
"The big moment for me was when I was presented the jersey,” he said.
"I didn't cry but I was getting there. It was emotional.
"Then when I ran out onto the field with the jersey on that was a big thing for me. It was one to remember.”
The Jets try-scorer joined 12 players from the PNG Hunters, some of Ipswich's biggest rivals in the Intrust Super Cup.
"I got along with them all really well,” he said. "We only had just over a week in camp so the plays didn't click straight away for me.
"I was used to playing my own type of football which is to play what's in front of me.
"Most of these guys play together so they knew what they were doing.
"I'm used to playing Jets football and going in for a scoot but this time I had to stay on my side. It was a bit different but it was good. I enjoyed it.”
With all the hype and ensuing controversy surrounding the Pacific Island clashes, Pandia said the experience was all about the game itself and the chance to learn.
The opportunity has made him even more determined to do his best for the Ipswich Jets and return to the Kumuls Test squad in time for this year's World Cup.
"It would mean a lot to me,” he said.
"You want to play for the pride of representing your country. I'm really hungry to make the team. I'm going to work hard on it and keep concentrating on getting better in all my games.
"I want (Ipswich Jets co-coaches) Ben and Shane Walker to help me work on the little things and hopefully I can get better at what I'm doing. I have no doubt in their ability as coaches.”
Adding to Pandia's tutelage with the Walker brothers, older brother Seb and former Ipswich Jets teammate Rod Griffin have both helped mentor the 23-year-old player.
Both have represented PNG, with Griffin reuniting with the younger Pandia in the PNG camp last week.
"I think (Rod) missed me,” Randia laughed. "I was making fun of him all week. It was great to be in the team with him.”
Richard and his older brother will hit the road again this weekend as the Ipswich Jets take on the CQ Capras in Rockhampton.