TPJ chooses Tonga over Origin
BRONCOS sensation Tevita Pangai Jr has revealed he defied the wishes of his parents by rejecting NSW in a move that stands to cost him more than $500,000 in State of Origin payments.
Speaking for the first time since his decision to pledge his representative allegiance to Tonga, Pangai Jr told The Courier-Mail his heritage comes before the desire to wear NSW and Australian jumpers.
The Broncos prop was named in NSW's Emerging Origin squad last December, but Pangai Jr will never wear sky blue after informing coach Brad Fittler his heart lies with Tonga.
The 22-year-old former Junior Kangaroos skipper has impressed Fittler with his rampaging start to the season.
With NSW and Queensland players earning $30,000 for each Origin game, Pangai Jr stood to pocket a major six-figure sum with a five-or-six year tenure in a Blues jumper.
The financial lure of playing Origin was not lost on Pangai Jr's family, but the Broncos firebrand says he cannot walk away from Tonga following their magical semi-final charge at last year's World Cup.
"I just didn't feel right playing Origin if I didn't want to play for Australia," Pangai Jr said.
"My heart is with Tonga after the World Cup, when we had that amazing run.
"I just want to keep the momentum going - I want my career in the red jersey.
"My parents didn't understand why I just wanted to play for Tonga. They were pretty disappointed actually, they wanted me to play for NSW.
"But I've made the decision, and I feel it's the right one."
As a kid growing up in Newcastle, Pangai Jr relished watching State of Origin and dreamt of a career with the Blues.
But Tonga's emotion-charged World Cup campaign, where he was mentored by Cowboys hulk Jason Taumalolo, forced a change of heart.
Pangai Jr has contacted Fittler to explain his decision and says the NSW Origin legend accepted it.
"Freddy (Fittler) was really understanding," he said.
"I explained the reasons why I wanted to stick with Tonga. He coached Lebanon at the World Cup, so he said no worries, all the best.
"It was pretty easy for me actually. I knew what I wanted after the World Cup and it was pretty easy to stay loyal to the Tongan jumper.
"I watched State of Origin as a kid. I always wanted to play for the Blues but my dream has changed.
"I don't really care about the money. If the money doesn't find me, hopefully it finds the next generation (of Tongan players)."
Pangai Jr will miss this Sunday's derby against the Titans with a hamstring injury but hopes to return the following week against Newcastle.
Korbin Sims will start in place of Pangai Jr, bringing Jaydn Su'A onto the bench, while rookie winger Jonus Pearson will replace Corey Oates, who injured his hip in last week's 9-7 defeat of the Tigers.