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10 years in the making

By Martin Gabor, ‌‌‌NRL.com

PNG_Butterfield_Hero2
Tommy Butterfield in action for the PNG Kumuls.

Tommy Butterfield never thought this moment would come. 

Despite being picked as a teenager for Papua New Guinea's European tour in 2007, the talented dummy-half had to wait 10 years to make his Test debut, with Butterfield finally getting the chance to represent his country against the Cook Islands as part of the Pacific Test triple-header on Saturday night. 

Butterfield came off the bench and injected plenty of spark around the ruck in the 32-22 win, with his speed and vision helping set up Nixon Put for an all-important try midway through the second half. 

The 29-year-old played in the NYC for the Brisbane Broncos in 2008 and has gone on to forge impressive careers at the Redcliffe Dolphins and the Easts Tigers in the Intrust Super Cup but had never played for the Kumuls at Test level until now.
 

"Tonight is the most special moment of my life after the birth of my son."
- Tommy Butterfield.


Butterfield was a part of the PNG side that went down to the Prime Minister's XIII in 2009 and was a member of their training group for the 2008 World Cup but wasn't selected in the final squad. 

He missed last year's famous win over Fiji through injury and wasn't considered for selection in 2015 because of Queensland Residents duty, so Saturday's call-up was extra special for a man who thought the opportunity would never arrive.  

"I was fortunate enough to initially make the squad for the European tour. I toured with some of the legends of the game as an 18-year-old, and while I never played a Test match I gained so much experience from that trip," Butterfield told NRL.com. 

"I've played a few games for PNG over the years but never a Test match and I must admit I never thought I'd get there, so tonight is the most special moment of my life after the birth of my son. 

"I grew up wanting to play for PNG, I watched my hero Tom O'Reilly play Test footy, so I can't believe what's happened tonight."

Hailing from Alotau, the capital of the Milne Bay Province in PNG and a place not renowned for producing rugby league players, Butterfield admitted the decade-long wait gave him a greater appreciation of what it meant to represent his people. 

"I probably love it more now than what I would have when I was 18 or 19," he said. 

"I was with my girlfriend when I found out and it was just all a buzz. The last week and a bit have just been really blurry."

His long wait was stretched out even further with coach Michael Marum opting to start him on the bench.   

"I think I felt better coming off the bench just knowing I could watch the game and get a feel of it," he admitted. 

"That said, there were butterflies throughout and I went to the toilet a few times before I got on the field. It was all worth it though because that was the biggest buzz of my life."

Saturday's win over the Cook Islands has PNG in good stead for this year's World Cup, with the Kumuls tipped to progress to the knockout stage courtesy of home games against Wales, Ireland and the USA in front of their rugby league loving fans. 

"They say there are seven or eight teams that have a genuine chance of winning the World Cup because of the changes to eligibility rules," Butterfield said. 

"We know that we have a lot of work to do after what we did today, but we have three big games at home that we know are must-win matches. 

"Teams have never played in front of a hostile crowd like what we have in Papua New Guinea where 15,000 fans feels like 50,000 so we think that'll be a big advantage."


This article first appeard on NRL.com