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Talakai ends debate over NSW Origin eligibility

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks wrecking ball Siosifa Talakai has moved to end any debate around his representative eligibility after declaring he would love to pull on a sky blue jersey for the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues this season.

The bullocking centre has been in outstanding form in 2022 and stormed into calculations for NSW after his eye-catching performance in the 34-22 win over Manly Warringah Sea Eagles on Thursday night.

“I’ve always watched Origin growing up and I’ve always wanted to be in one of those jerseys,” Talakai told Channel Nine.

“Hopefully, I do my work and the big man (NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler) picks me.”

Although Talakai has represented the Junior Kiwis and could also represent Tonga due to his parents and grandparents’ heritage, that would not preclude him from representing NSW after he listed Australia as his country of election on his playing contract.

Talakai also ticks other criteria boxes including being born in NSW; lived in NSW since before his 13th birthday; played the bulk of his Rugby League in NSW from the ages of Under 6s to Under 18s; spent the majority of his school years in NSW; and first played Junior Representatives in NSW.

He has already caught the eye of Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler, who included him in a Future Blues squad last year, and he has now rocketed into calculations following injuries to centres Tom Trbojevic (knee) and Latrell Mitchell (hamstring).

“He played in some pathways with NSW,” Fittler said on Nine's NRL coverage.

“He’s a proud Tongan man, there’s a mid-season Test for Tonga at the same time as the second Origin ... but he is a NSW boy.

“They can play for NSW and Tonga. It's a Tier 2 nation.”

The 25-year-old Talakai was already leading the NRL in tackle-busts before Round Seven kicked off but he had a field day against the Sea Eagles after finishing the match with 262m off 20 runs, three line-breaks, two tries, two try assists and eight tackle-busts.

Playing at left centre for the Sharks, Talakai made it an uncomfortable night for Manly’s right edge of Haumole Olakau’atu, Morgan Harper and Jason Saab.

He’s played 49 NRL games, including 11 for South Sydney after he left there for Penrith in 2018.

He played NSW Cup for the Panthers before transferring to Cronulla’s feeder club, the Newtown Jets and was part of their 2019 Premiership-winning side.

Talakai played centre in the juniors and for the Rabbitohs before switching to the back row for the Sharks in 2020. An injury to Connor Tracey has seen Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon shift Talakai back to the centres to start this season.

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