It'd been five years since Nene MacDonald had slipped into a Papua New Guinea jersey, however the outside back is adamant the squad has only gotten closer since the last Rugby League World Cup.

The Kumuls defeated the Cook Islands 32-16 in the early hours of Wednesday morning AEDT, all but securing second place for their pool group, and seemingly setting up a Quarter Final clash against host nation England.

Their opening pool game, a 24-18 loss to Tonga, was MacDonald's first game in an international jersey since the Kumuls bowed out of the 2017 World Cup, sent packing after a 36-6 loss to England.

Now, it's time for Papua New Guinea to have their revenge.

PORT MORESBY, PAPUA NEW GUINEA - NOVEMBER 05: (L-R) Rhyse Martin, Justin Olam, Nene McDonald and Watson Boas of Papua New Guinea celebrate victory after the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between Papua New Guinea Kumuls and Ireland on November 5, 2017 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

MacDonald started that match in the centres, and certainly hasn't forgotten the clash five years on.

"It will be one of our biggest challenges if we get there but we have the team and lots of our players have played alongside each other for many years now," MacDonald told

"It's almost like the same team [from 2017] and we have gelled a lot and we are rising up and trying to make a difference.

"We have our brand, our own style and we want to have an effect in this Cup, not just be part of it. One day we'd like to win it for our people."
While for a lot of teammates, it was the first time MacDonald had seen them face-to-face since the last tournament, however he's more than familiar with head coach, Adrian Lam.
LEEDS, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 08: Head coach Adrian Lam of Papua New Guinea watches on before the Rugby League World Cup Group B match between New Zealand and Papua New Guinea at Headingley Stadium on November 8, 2013 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Lam, who's son Lachlan is playing halfback for the nation, coaches Leigh in England, and threw MacDonald a lifeline ahead of this season. The former NRL star crossed for 26 tries in 27 appearances, including the Grand Final, which sees Leigh promoted to the Super League for 2023.
"It has been an amazing year, getting promoted to Super League and now playing at a World Cup. It means so much to me putting this jersey on," MacDonald said.

"It has been five years since I last put the jersey on, with injury and other stuff, and then to get a shot at Leigh and fight my way back has been amazing.

"It has been a long and emotional journey but it's like I never went away."

Papua New Guinea will face Wales in their final pool match, before a likely Quarter Final against England in Wigan.