Origin fight emerges for Titans’ rookie Samoan flyer
MAROONS legend Justin Hodges doesn't fear that the Queensland side will be left short on talent as Titans hat-trick hero Phillip Sami expressed his desire to represent Samoa.
Born in Ipswich to Samoan parents and a Goodna Eagles junior, Sami represented the Queensland under-20s under Hodges last season but told foxsports.com.au that if asked by coach Matt Parish he would love to pull on the blue jersey of Samoa in the mid-year Test against Tonga.
The decision by Jason Taumalolo to turn his back on representing New Zealand and Andrew Fifita's recent declaration that he has chosen Tonga over New South Wales has raised the possibility of more and more Pacific-heritage players choosing country over state.
Fresh from scoring three tries in the Titans' 26-14 upset win over the Broncos on Sunday night, Sami proudly displayed the Samoan tattoo that adorns his right arm but Hodges doesn't believe the Maroons will suffer a Pacific player drain.
"I don't think we'll see that trend," Hodges told foxsports.com.au.
"Fifita chose that because he's passionate about Tonga and they had a good campaign and the other side to that is that every position in the NSW side is up for grabs with a new coach.
"'Freddy' (NSW coach Brad Fittler) might go with a younger-looking side and Andrew might have been in two minds as to whether he would make the side or not but I think it's great to see these guys play for their country, it's only going to make the international game stringer.
"I don't think we'll see a whole lot of players walking away from Origin because at the end of the day that's what it's about, playing against the best of the best and the best of the best is State of Origin.
"Origin is still the pinnacle, it's still the biggest showcase game we've got in our game.
"It's the game that everyone wants to watch so you'd be silly to walk away from that.
"That's what you play for.
"Some kids might grow up in different environments and have different dreams and aspirations and might want to go and play for Tonga or Samoa but that's not going to lessen the Origin arena."
Sami's call-up into the Queensland under-20s team last year was the first state junior representative team he had been selected in.
Playing Origin for Queensland and Test football for the Kangaroos remains very much a goal that the 20-year-old winger aspires to but he told foxsports.com.au that he would jump at the chance to play for Samoa.
"I was born in Ipswich but both my parents are from Samoa," Sami explained.
"Obviously I would like to represent Samoa one day. I think it would be a big privilege for me and both my parents because they are both from there.
"But if other opportunities come from other countries like Australia then I'd obviously take that as well.
"Obviously seeing the Samoan boys out there (during the World Cup) I'd love to be a part of that as well.
"Australia, that's in the long run, that's down the track more for me but if Samoa was to come up to me and ask me I'd definitely take that opportunity.
"Going through school I never made any of those (Queensland) rep sides until under 20s last year. That was good fun for me and I had a good time representing Queensland.
"Obviously that means a lot because I grew up in Queensland watching Queensland as a kid.
"Everyone loves the Queensland side, winning eight in a row, I think that would be very special to be a part of.
"If I was to get an opportunity to play for Queensland I'd be very happy and grateful for that."
In addition to his three tries and a cross-field kick for Anthony Don to score, Sami took a game-high 21 carries for a game-high 176 metres against the Broncos with powerful carries that regularly debt the defensive line.
He made his NRL debut at 19 years of age in Round 15 last year and fellow Titans winger Anthony Don said it was evident straight away that he was built to play first grade.
"Straight away you knew that he was going to be a first-grader just because of the power that he's got and the strength of his carry," Don said.
"He can run into the middle of the forwards and bump a few off and keep going and get a quick play-the-ball. That's probably his main asset.
"He's got a good step and good tryscorer as well so he's got the full package as a winger.
"He's had a great start to his career and I expect him to be a Titan for a long time."