Written by Joshua Dean
Papua New Guinea has produced a string of talented rugby league players over the years, from Melbourne Storm cult hero Marcus Bai, to Neville Costigan and more recently Justin Olam. Any mention of talented PNG rugby league products has to include PNG Kumal stalwart David Mead.
Mead has had a unique career, one that has allowed him to travel the world and be part of many major rugby league moments. Not many players have played in the NRL, Super League, City vs Country and captained their country at a world cup however the Port Moresby native has done this all as a small winger.
“Enjoy the tough carries coming out of the corner, do your extras outside of normal training like kicking, catching and passing. There are times when you hardly touch the ball at training as a winger so it is important to keep your hand eye coordination with extra training.” he told Everything Rugby League.
Mead debuted for the Gold Coast Titans in 2009, only a couple years after their inaugural season. He played well early on before exploding onto the scene in 2011, where he scored 16 tries, as well as scoring one of the most spectacular tries in NRL history, scooping the ball with one hand off the bounce to score in the corner. When reminiscing, he remembers some great times.
The 2009 Titans squad included a plethora of household names such as Preston Campbell, Scott Prince, Mat Rogers and Luke Bailey. “The early days at the Titans were exciting for me because I was young and looked up to the guys I was training and playing with. They were my idols while I was in high school so I couldn’t believe I was in the same dressing room as them getting ready to run out in front of big crowds.”
His impressive try-scoring feats were noticed by New South Wales selectors in the mid-2010’s, where he represented NSW Country in the annual City vs Country fixture twice. Mead scored a double in the first game and one try in his second game for the Country Origin side. “The City vs Country games were awesome. Getting to play with players from other NRL teams and seeing how they prepared for games was interesting to me. I loved it” says Mead, musing upon this period of his career.
After countless successful seasons with the Titans Mead moved to rival club the Brisbane Broncos where he had an oddly quiet season before relocating to France to play for the Catalans Dragons in the Super League. The PNG native noted the cold weather as a major difference between both leagues.
“The strength and the weakness of the Super League is the cold weather. It is freezing so you have to be tough to play there, which is a positive, however living there is tough. Another weakness is being really far away from family (for antipodean players).”
Mead again played well in the Super League, averaging a try every second game. Even though many rugby league fans believe the NRL is superior to the Super League, he didn’t actually find it that way.
“To be honest, I didn’t find too many differences. If I had to pick one specifically, it’s that the outside backs’ decision making is better in the NRL.”
Whilst playing in both leagues, Mead featured as a regular for the Papua New Guinea national team, the Kumuls, and is now their top try scorer of all time in international fixtures, crossing the line nine times to date. In 2013 and 2017, he represented his country of birth in the Rugby League World Cup, with the honour of captaining the team in 2017.
“It’s always a proud moment representing my family when I put on the Kumul jersey.”
He has blazed a path for more PNG talent to come through to the NRL and abroad, with several PNG natives playing in leagues across the world. In the QLD Cup, the PNG Hunters are developing new first graders to hopefully field a Kumuls side that contend for a world cup someday. Mead sees this and is confident of a great future for Papua New Guinean rugby league.
“Xavier Coates is an extremely exciting talent for Papua New Guinea. There are also a couple of other talented guys playing in the Hunters as well, which is promising.”
Currently playing at the highest level for both club and country at 32 years old, he hopefully still has several seasons ahead of him however he is already thinking, like many others, about what life looks like after rugby league.
“I am still thinking of what I want to do. Possibly some community work like giving advice to younger people on what I was taught and what I have learnt from the game. Anything to do with helping out people is of huge interest to me.”
David Mead is paving out a great career at the top level of rugby league. His path is unique compared to others, however, that is why he is so fascinating. Everywhere he has played he has scored tries and for the Brisbane Broncos sake, let’s hope he continues that for seasons to come.