NRL Rd 8 - Bulldogs v Roosters
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: Tevita Pangai Junior of the Bulldogs looks on during the round eight NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Sydney Roosters at Stadium Australia on April 30, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Hours after the NSW Blues team for Game I of State of Origin was confirmed, head coach Brad Fittler spoke out on the surprise selection of Bulldogs forward Tevita Pangai Junior.

Pangai Junior is one of three players set to make their Origin debut next Wednesday for the Blues but is by far the most surprising.

Coming into the team for the injured Jake Trbojevic (calf soreness), the Bulldogs enforcer was a last-minute change into the side. The decision surprised many, considering there had been no reports or rumours surrounding his selection.

Speaking to the media for the first time since the squad announcement, Fittler admitted his selection was a "gamble" but assured critics that "he's super talented" and is ready to take that next step from club football to representative level.

"I've liked Tevita for a while, and I can see that teams are intimidated by him," he said.

"I think at times he probably hasn't handled that well either, but I've just always liked him."

"He's super talented. I think it's always just a matter of him getting that next level of control, showing leadership, and when I talk to people at Canterbury, they say he's a great trainer. prepares excellently."

"If it's a risk, again? Yeah, we'll have a gamble."

"It's all a gamble, isn't it? That's what it's all about."

Tevita Pangai Junior enters the starting side off the back of an impressive performance on Sunday against the Gold Coast Titans.

He put on 213 running metres, with two tackle busts and 34 tackles in a dominant display lasting 57 minutes as the Bulldogs walked away with a two-point win. What makes this performance even greater is that he did it against two Maroons forwards, David Fifta and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui.