Jack de Belin was among four returning faces at WIN Stadium on Tuesday morning for their opening preseason session joining fellow internationals Ben Hunt, Moses Suli, and Mikaele Ravalawa among the group of players cutting their offseason breaks short to get back on the training paddock.
De Belin made his international debut for Papua New Guinea in their Pacific Championships win against the Cook Islands in Port Moresby last month.
The Kumuls went on to beat Fiji 32-12 in the inaugural Pacific Bowl Final with de Belin - an experience that he dubbed “awesome”.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the experience I had there,” he said.
“All the players, coaching staff, the members of the community over there, just everyone involved in it made it such a good experience. I’m really happy I did it now and it’s something that I’ll definitely look back on very fondly in my footballing career.”
He also credits Dragons teammate Dan Russell for convincing him to pull on the Kumuls jersey and represent the nation that his grandmother was born in.
“He was a great help for me there and it was obviously nice having a teammate there as well,” he said.
“He was kind of the one that got me across the line. He just spoke to me about how good of an experience it is and that the boys would love to have me over there.”
With international experience now under his belt, de Belin was eager to get back to the Dragons and prepare for the 2024 season.
“The body’s feeling great. I’ve had a bit of time off, so it’s been nice to recharge the batteries and come back feeling refreshed,” he said.
“I came back early. I think I wasn’t due back until next Monday… A lot of people came back early, so good to get back and just be around the boys and get a feel for what’s happening here. It all starts happening now that the full squad’s getting back.”
De Belin was excited to have gotten his first taste of life under new head coach Shane Flanagan whose passion he says was on full display.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to be able to work directly underneath him. [Today] was awesome,” he said.
“It’s been very enjoyable. Just seeing him on my first day and, from my first interactions, he’s very passionate. He knows what he wants, and he’s set out to achieve that. Now, it’s about us players getting on board and delivering.”