Brisbane star Tevita Pangai Jr has pledged his future to Tonga, just days before Blues coach Brad Fittler was set to name the NSW team for Origin I.
Pangai Jr originally told the Blues of his plans to play for them this season, but The Courier-Mail says the 23-year-old has decided to give up an Origin jersey for the chance to represent Tonga for the rest of his career.
The Broncos enforcer was set to be announced as a Blue by Fittler next week, but has reportedly told the Origin coach to select either Payne Haas or Matt Lodge instead, both teammates of Pangai Jr in Brisbane.
“I’ve called ‘Freddy’ (Fittler) to tell him I won’t be available for NSW,” Pangai Jr told The Courier-Mail.
“I want to make this clear … I was no certainty to be picked at all and I wasn’t thinking I could just walk into a great NSW team, but I don’t want to stuff a guy like Freddy around.
“I really appreciated Freddy’s handling of it. He was really good about it and he gave me some advice on how to be more consistent. He wished me all the best and said he will consider other people.
“I pushed Payne Haas and Matt Lodge to Freddy. To be honest, they are playing better footy than me and I would rather see one of them wearing that NSW Origin jumper than me.
“I think it would mean more to them and I really hope they get a start for this year’s series.”
Pangai Jr has flipped back and forth between his desire to play for Tonga and the Blues, but now believes his final decision has been made.
“This is it now … I’m with Tonga for good,” Pangai Jr said.
“I had some people in my ear convincing me to play for NSW but after talking to Jase and Sio (Siua Taukeiaho), my heart is with Tonga.
“Freddy spoke to me before the series about playing for NSW. I was really honoured to be invited to the NSW team dinner last year, the guys were great to me and I could see the culture Freddy was trying to build.
“But for me there is no camp like being with the Tongan boys.
“I’m glad in my mind it is put to bed. Things are simpler now. I can focus on the Broncos and hopefully play well enough to wear that Tongan jersey.”