Aquis Titans utility back Nene Macdonald admits he was surprised to be selected in the first World All Stars team that will take on the Indigenous All Stars at Suncorp Stadium in February.
And he might get a bigger surprise if he has to match up with his former teammate, the lightning quick James Roberts, in the clash that is expected to draw a big crowd.
Macdonald, at 21 and with just 27 NRL games behind him, was a surprise choice in the side chosen by champion coach Wayne Bennett but it shows how his potential is regarded across the NRL.
He came to Titans halfway through last season when first grade opportunities had been sparse with the high-flying Sydney Roosters and quickly established himself as a strong running centre or winger on the Gold Coast.
He becomes the fifth player in the Titans squad to compete in the popular pre-season match, joining Greg Bird, Ryan James, Tyrone Roberts who are in the Indigenous team for the February 13 clash and Kierran Moseley who played last season.
And if he comes onto the field in his Titans position of left centre, it might mean he has to contend with Roberts.
“I’m very surprised but excited too to play with some of the best players in the game and enjoy what everyone says is a great week,” said the PNG international who was born in Port Moresby.
“It’s pretty special to be picked by Wayne Bennett, he’s the best there is with his incredible record and it will be good to meet him and experienced playing under him.
“I watch the game every year and usually go for Indigenous boys, so this will be different.
"It's a big opportunity for me and I'm looking forward to it.”
Nene has an Australian father who was working in Port Moresby as an accountant when he met Nene’s mother. They returned to Australia, to Cairns, where Nene spent his school years before heading to Townsville’s Kirwan state high where he attended years 11 and 12 with current Titans teammate Keirran Moseley.
He was only 19 and hadn’t played NRL for the Roosters when he was chosen in the PNG side for the 2013 World Cup, playing in three matches, then represented his country of birth again in 2015 during the representative weekend on the Gold Coast, scoring a try against Fiji.
Now he finds himself on the representative stage again but it is what he does for the Titans this season that might define the direction of his career.
Coach Neil Henry has been impressed with his strong running but knows he has to improve his defence, an area he has been working hard in during the pre-season.
It is still open which position is Macdonald’s best as he has played centre, wing and fullback. With the club still searching to enhance the centre stocks, that’s where he is preparing to play.
“It’s been pretty tough pre-season but we have come together really tightly and everyone is keen to make sure the hard work pays off when the season starts,” he said.
“I don’t worry what position I play – I have played centre, fullback and winger – I just want to establish my position in the team.”