Test match an NRL audition for PNG

Outgoing Papua New Guinea rugby league captain David Mead is urging the Kumuls to use their Test match against Fiji as an opportunity to prove PNG has the talent to support an 18th NRL team.

The only country in the world with rugby league as its national sport, PNG already fields a Queensland Cup team, the Hunters, and in May, the country's government officially launched a bid to have representation at NRL level.

When they play their first match since 2019 on Saturday night at Campbelltown Stadium, the Kumuls will give the NRL an early preview of what their country could offer if granted a licence.

"To bring a team into the NRL from PNG makes sense to me," Mead told AAP.

"With PNG players, that fearlessness is always there. You want to play with guys who are fearless and they've got that.

"The country obviously loves rugby league.

"People have to see it for themselves to believe it.

"Hundreds of people gathering around a small TV watching the NRL with excitement. They get so excited whenever they see a PNG player."

Mead said the expansion of the NRL to PNG would also put the country's socio-economic issues on the international agenda.

"We always try to use sport as a tool to try and improve social issues," he said.

"If you've got a rugby league game at the NRL level being played on a week-to-week basis, whether it's home or away, PNG will be spoken about a lot more by the world."

The Hunters have played home games in Queensland since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but Kumuls coach Stanley Tepend, who is also on the Hunters' coaching staff, said he hoped NRL games could be played in PNG if the country was granted a licence.

"If we were to have an NRL team, it'd be really great for us to be based in PNG," he told AAP.

"Getting our junior systems in place back home would help towards that.

"I'm sure the NRL would benefit as well, having packed stadiums every weekend if there were games in PNG.

"It's something we've always wished for. It would be unreal."

Mead is preparing to make an emotional farewell to the Kumuls after 15 matches spanning 15 years and three World Cup campaigns.

The former Gold Coast Titans, Catalans Dragons and now Brisbane Broncos utility back made his international debut at the 2008 World Cup and said his decision to retire from representative football was made with one eye on this year's tournament.

"I was given a pretty good opportunity at the age of 19 by PNG Kumuls," he said.

"I wouldn't want to get in the way of another young guy to have that opportunity to play in the World Cup. That's what led me to make my decision.

"I'm trying not to think about it too much because I'll get emotional, thinking about all the good things that have happened. I've got my family flying down from Brisbane to come and watch the game. It certainly will be special."