Liam Horne’s unique rugby league journey will hit its highest mark on Saturday night when the Norths Devils utility makes his debut for Papua New Guinea in the mid-season Test against Fiji in Sydney.
Horne was born in PNG and tried baseball and rugby union before he settled on a game of league with the Palmerston Raiders Under 8 team in the Darwin competition.
He has played the game ever since, representing Aspley Devils after his family moved to Brisbane as a 10-year-old and then on to Norths where he progressed from the club’s junior representative teams into the celebrated grand final squad that won the Intrust Super Cup last October.
Horne’s Kumuls selection will be celebrated by his family across two countries.
One of seven children, Horne will have family in the stands in Sydney while his home villages of Hula and Gaire cheer him on in PNG.
Horne was born in Port Moresby to his PNG mum Karen and his Australian father Robert. The couple met while Robert was working as an electrician in the nation’s gold mines.
“Being chosen for the Kumuls means everything to me,” Horne said.
“It’s been a dream for me since I was young. I’m really excited for my family because they have been such a great support for me over the years.
“I think the whole village in PNG will probably watch the game.”
Horne, 24, has tried most positions across his rugby league career.
Right now, he’s playing hooker for the Devils after former coach Rohan Smith suggested that he would play the position well.
Horne is just as adept at lock, where he also played this season before hooker Kierran Moseley was injured.
He’s also played fullback and in the halves during his extended career, offering coaches valuable cover across positions.
“I’ve enjoyed playing in some of those different spots and I hadn’t focused on hooker until Ro told me he thought I could play there,” Horne said.
“That’s helped me to develop skills that I can also use in other positions.”
Horne has been the Devils’ lucky charm in recent years.
In 2018, he was switched to the centres when injuries forced a last-minute reshuffle for the Devils in their Colts grand final.
Horne was impressive that day, scoring a valuable try as a Devils team featuring the likes of Jordan Riki, Kobe Hetherington, Cory Paix and Ethan Bullemor won the decider.
Last October, Horne was told in the days before the Intrust Super Cup decider that he would play off the bench as Norths sought its first Queensland Cup premiership in 23 years.
He was excellent in the grand final as the Devils celebrated a treasured premiership.
“I hadn’t played in front of a crowd that size before so I was a bit nervous,” Horne said.
“It had been a while since the club had won so I was really excited for those supporters who had waited for that day.”
Horne is in the final year of his apprenticeship as an electrician with Electrogroup. He will complete the trade at the end of this year, but he also has eyes on another job.
“I’d love to be a fulltime footy player for a while and that dream remains,” Horne said.
“I’m really grateful for the chance to do my apprenticeship as an electrician and that will always be important to me.”
Photo by Alan Drinnen