From Adrian Lam to Stanley Gene, Papa New Guinea have produced some of the finest rugby league players to grace Superleague. However my favourite Papua New Guinean of all time to play on these shore was the one and only Marcus Bai. Most Leeds fans will mainly remember him for that 2005 Challenge Cup blunder where he gathered the ball in his in-goal area before popping a pass out of the tackle, only for Richard Whiting to pounce on and score. After that not many Rhinos fans were too bothered about him leaving to play for the Bradford Bulls in 2006.
Prior to that 2005 season Marcus Bai couldn’t put a foot wrong and was highly regarded as one of the best wingers in the world. This was rightfully recognised when he won the Dally M Winger of the year in 1998 whilst playing for Melbourne Storm. Between 1998 and 2003 Marcus went on to play 144 first grade games and scoring a total of 70 tries. He’s still regarded highly by Melbourne fans who’ve named a fans forum after him called the Bai Stand.
In 2004 he joined Leeds Rhinos where he finished the season as Leeds Rhinos second most prolific try scorer with 24 tries. He scored three hat-tricks in the process with the best of these coming against St Helens, when Leeds demolished them 70 - 0. Marcus Bai was well and truly on-form that day and had a big part to play in what was the sweetest ever victory over St Helens.
Finally I want to finish this weeks column on a high and just congratulate Marcus Bai for been the first player to win three world club challenges with three different clubs. This is a remarkable feat and probably the reason why more investment needs to go into Papa New Guinea so we can unearth more quality rugby league players for our beautiful game.
All the best for this week against England you Kumuls!