Jeremiah Nanai has revealed how he and best mate Murray Taulagi made a pact to prioritise the Kangaroos and play for Australia together at the Rugby League World Cup.
Australia coach Mal Meninga will announce his 24-man squad on Monday, with Nanai and Taulagi expected to feature among a host of potential debutants.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE All the build up to the NRL grand final.
Watch the latest sport on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>
The Kangaroos have been rocked by several players opting to turn out for Pacific nations, including Junior Paulo, Brian To’o, Jarome Luai, Joseph Suaalii and Josh Papali’i.
North Queensland winger Taulagi was close to joining that group, with the 19-year-old seriously considering prioritising Samoa as recently as last month.
However Nanai said he and Taulagi had spoken and vowed to try and represent Australia together, saving Meninga another withdrawal on the wing.
“He was (thinking about playing for Samoa),” Nanai told AAP.
“We had a chat about it but we both agreed to play for Australia. We’ve always wanted to.
“We grew up here and done everything here. We had a discussion about it and (said) let’s play for Australia.
“We’re best mates. We do everything together. We have feeds and do everything together.
“I can’t wait. If he has the opportunity to put the jersey on I’ll be more than happy for him to represent Australia too.”
Nanai said the decision was far easier for himself, after he was named in an under-15 Australian honour squad as a schoolboy, although he never got to play a match.
It meant the newly crowned Dally M rookie of the year never seriously considered playing for Samoa at this year’s tournament, after a brilliant season in which he scored 18 tries and debuted for Queensland.
“It was always Australia,” Nanai said.
“I do have Samoan heritage. Both parents. But I’ve always wanted to play for Australia.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get to play (in under-15s). So I was hoping later on down the track I get to put that jersey on.
“This is the only opportunity I have had … so I’m hoping. Fingers crossed.”
Meanwhile, Meninga will face several other decisions, with Australia having not played a Test since their 2019 loss to Tonga.
Daly Cherry-Evans and Nathan Cleary will likely be taken to England, with a call to be made on the starting half before Australia’s opener against Fiji on October 15.
That decision could influence who takes over as captain from Boyd Cordner captain, with Cherry-Evans and Tedesco vying for the honours.
Grand-finalists Shaun Lane and Liam Martin are fighting for back-row spots against each other, while Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards has a chance of bolting into the squad.