Tevita Pangai Junior chooses NSW over Tonga
29 November, 2018, 7:04 am
Mate Ma’a Tonga rugby league star Tevita Pangai Junior has chosen to play for New South Wales in 2019.
The 22-year-old was this week named in Blues coach Brad Fittler’s 32-man State of Origin training squad that will be held in Sydney next month.
The Brisbane Broncos prop is eligible to play for both New South Wales and Tonga because the Kingdom are still classified as a second-tier nation.
But Pangai Junior, who made his international debut in Tonga’s shock 28-22 win over New Zealand at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, will be unable to play in Mate Ma’a Tonga’s scheduled rematch against the Kiwis next June because it clashes with Game Two of next year’s State of Origin series.
Blues coach Brad Fittler told Australia’s Channel 9 Pangai Junior had made himself available for the Origin series.
“He’s committing to the Blues for the series,” Fittler said.
“He understands there’s a Tongan Test match in the middle of that and he’s happy to walk away from that. He’ll get the opportunity to play for Tonga at the end of the year.
“He recognises where he’s from. He grew up in Newcastle. He’s a really good player. Young kid. He did a fantastic job for Tonga again.
“I look forward to seeing him come down and meet all the players. He’ll put a lot of pressure on the team.”
Tonga coach unaware of Pangai Junior switch
Mate Ma’a Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said he haf not heard from Pangai Junior and was unaware of his reported switch.
In a text mesage to RNZ Pacific, Woolf said: “To my knowledge he hasn’t” chosen to play for New South Wales over Tonga.
“I haven’t had that conversation with him. I’m sure he will contact me when he is ready to make a decision.”
The former Kangaroos and New South Wales prop Andrew Fifita chose to play for Tonga in this year’s Pacific Test against Toa Samoa, which was held the day before the Blues beat Queensland in Sydney to regain the State of Origin title.