Brisbane Broncos rugby league star Tevita Pangai Jr has turned down the chance to play State of Origin, formally committing to Tonga just days before the naming of the New South Wales and Queensland teams for Game One.
The 23-year-old made his Test debut for Mate Ma'a Tonga in 2017 but revealed last year he was open to playing for New South Wales - prompting Blues coach Brad Fittler to select Pangai Jr in his 32-man train-on squad last December.
But the Courier-Mail reported that Pangai Jr contacted Fittler to renounce his ties with New South Wales as the Blues coach prepares to unveil his team on Sunday for the series opener at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday week.
"I've called 'Freddy' (Fittler) to tell him I won't be available for NSW," Pangai Junior told the Courier-Mail.
"I want to make this clear…I was no certainty to be picked at all and I wasn't thinking I could just walk into a great NSW team, but I don't want to stuff a guy like Freddy around."
By committing his future to Tonga, Pangai Jr walks away from a potential $AU90,000 payday for three Origin games.
He has played four tests for Mate Ma'a Tonga and is set to wear the red jersey again in next month's Oceania Cup opener against New Zealand in Auckland, in a rematch of the Kingdom's famous victory over the Kiwis at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
"This is it now … I'm with Tonga for good," he told the Courier Mail.
"I had some people in my ear convincing me to play for NSW but after talking to Jase and Sio (Siua Taukeiaho), my heart is with Tonga.
"Freddy spoke to me before the series about playing for NSW. I was really honoured to be invited to the NSW team dinner last year, the guys were great to me and I could see the culture Freddy was trying to build but for me there is no camp like being with the Tongan boys.
"I'm glad in my mind it is put to bed. Things are simpler now. I can focus on the Broncos and hopefully play well enough to wear that Tongan jersey."