Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler has revealed Tevita Pangai Junior is a genuine chance of making the State of Origin team in 2019 after the barnstorming Brisbane Broncos prop committed to his state over Tonga.
Fittler raised eyebrows last week after naming Pangai Junior in his 32-man train-on squad for NSW given Pangai Junior chose Tonga over the Blues for the mid-season Test against Samoa only to miss the match with a rib problem.
He played in the end-of-season sold out Test match against the Australian Kangaroos in Auckland but has confirmed to Fittler he will miss another opportunity to represent the Mate Ma’a in the 2019 mid-season Test for the chance to play for the Blues.
Pangai Junior is of Tongan descent but played his junior football in the Newcastle competition and has represented the Australian Under 20s. Under the game’s eligibility rules, players not selected for tier-one nations like Australia are permitted to play for second-tier nations like Tonga.
“He’s committing to the Blues for the series this year,” Fittler told 9News.
“He understands that there’s a Tongan Test match in the middle of that and he’s happy to walk away from that, but 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, meet all the players and he’ll put a lot of pressure on the team.”
Pangai Junior’s decision is a massive win for Fittler after former NSW prop Andrew Fifita turned his back on a Blues jumper this season and instead committed his future to Tonga.