Roos hope to tempt Pangai switch
THE Kangaroos have opened the door for Broncos sensation Tevita Pangai Jr to make a shock defection from Tonga to Australia.
Pangai Jr is set to become the centre of a representative tug of war following a breakout season this year.
The 22-year-old turned his back on a potential NSW Origin debut this season to remain loyal to Tonga after last year's World Cup success.
However Pangai Jr's representative eligibility will ignite again following the revival of the end-of-season Australia-Tonga Test in New Zealand.
Pangai Jr shapes as Brisbane's NRL premiership x-factor and could enhance his Test prospects by outpointing Kangaroos star Tyson Frizell if cleared of a hamstring injury for the Broncos' sudden death final against St George Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
Test selector Darren Lockyer told The Courier-Mail the Kangaroos would strongly consider Pangai Jr if he switched allegiances.
"There's no doubt Tevita has that potential (to play for Australia)," Lockyer said.
"We haven't sat down at the selection table yet, but players who play well through the finals always have the edge for the end-of-year Tests.
"He's definitely a guy we have to start looking to introduce into the Kangaroos system. If the Broncos go deep into the playoffs and Tevita plays a big part, he will be right at the forefront of our minds.
"Ultimately, Tevita needs to decide what he wants to do. (Blues coach) Brad Fittler asked him earlier this year if Tevita wanted to play Origin and he was committed to Tonga, so he has to make a choice I guess.
"He's certainly got the talent to play Test football for Australia. But I'm also an advocate for the international game and if Tevita chooses to stick with Tonga, players of his calibre can only help the emerging nations."
Sydney-born Pangai Jr has told Tongan teammates and coach Kristian Woolf he is committed to the nation and while the Kangaroos would not actively persuade him to switch, their interest is genuine.
Pangai Jr ruled himself out of State of Origin contention for NSW this year, despite being able to play for Tonga and the Blues.
He ultimately missed the mid-year Tonga-Samoa Test due to a rib injury and told The Courier-Mail in July that he would reconsider his Origin availability if approached by Fittler.
If Pangai Jr was to make himself available for the Blues next year that would thrust him into the Kangaroos selection mix.
"It was pretty tough actually," Pangai Jr said of watching NSW win the series.
"Origin is still the pinnacle of our sport. I made my decision coming off a high from the World Cup.
"I'm still loyal to Tonga, but it was pretty tough, I didn't know what I was missing out on.
"If the opportunity comes and Freddie (Fittler) gives me a call, I will think about it again.
"I want to do something for the international game and that's playing for Tonga.
"I'm also proud New South Wales. I still supported them in all three games. It was pretty hard.
"It's a decision I have to live with. I'll see what happens in the future. No one can tell what the future holds."
Lockyer compared Pangai Jr to Dally M powerhouse Jason Taumalolo, who defected from New Zealand to Tonga for last year's World Cup.
"I see Tevita a bit like a Jason Taumalolo," he said.
"I would use him in the middle of the field as opposed to the edge."
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