Young North Queensland stars Jeremiah Nanai and Murray Taulagi have saved Mal Meninga and the Kangaroos from further embarrassment, revealing that the pair made a pact to play for Australia together.
Nanai, who picked up the Dally M Rookie of the Year and Second-Rower of the Year on Wednesday night, has enjoyed a breakout 2022 as has team mate Murray Taulagi, scoring 17 tries each this season.
While the duo seemed certain to pledge allegiance to Samoa as so many other Origin stars have, including Brian To'o, Stephen Crichton, Junior Paulo, Josh Papali'i and Jarome Luai, a conversation between the young guns convinced one another to pledge to Australia.
"He was (thinking about playing for Samoa)," Nanai told AAP.
"We had a chat about it but we both agreed to play for Australia. We've always wanted to.
"We grew up here and done everything here. We had a discussion about it and said let's play for Australia.
"We're best mates. We do everything together. We have feeds and do everything together.
"I can't wait. If he has the opportunity to put the jersey on I'll be more than happy for him to represent Australia too."
A shortage of outside backs could skyrocket Taulagi into the conversation for a starting role in the full-strength side, with a backline of James Tedesco, Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Campbell Graham and Valentine Holmes the favourite to open their tournament with.
Nanai revealed that representing Samoa was never really an option for him, the Queensland Maroon's forward instead opting to represent the nation he earned schoolboy honours for when he was 15 - despite not playing for them.
"It was always Australia," Nanai said.
"I do have Samoan heritage. Both parents. But I've always wanted to play for Australia.
"Unfortunately we didn't get to play (in under-15s). So I was hoping later on down the track I get to put that jersey on.
"This is the only opportunity I have had... so I'm hoping. Fingers crossed."
Meninga will name his 24-man squad on Monday, and are expected to be joined by fellow Cowboy Reuben Cotter in making their Kangaroos debut.