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It’s hard to be good. Siosifa Talakai discovers that the higher you go in rugby league, the more people want your number.
The Sharks center could be set to become the center of the bidding war between his state, New South Wales, and his heritage nation, Tonga, with both seeking his services in the representative round in June.
Talakai ripped up trees in the Shire, culminating in a monster top 40 against Manly that saw him dominate his counterpart, Morgan Harper, so completely that the Sea Eagle was hung at halftime.
There were two tries, three assists and almost 200m in the first half in a display that catapulted Talakai into the reps’ conversation.
It was a meteoric rise for the former Mascot Jet. Despite making his debut for South Sydney in 2016, he was released and bounced back through the NSW Cup, working the bins while pursuing his footy dream with Penrith and later Newtown.
It was with the Bluebags that he caught Cronulla’s eye and secured a belated return to the top in 2020. Now he’s on the verge of honors.
The choice must be made as soon as possible. There is a place at the New South Wales center following Latrell Mitchell’s injury, but with a Tonga test match against New Zealand in Auckland set to be announced shortly for the same weekend as Origin 2, this option is also on the table.
Blues manager Brad Fittler was on the Nine’s coverage of last night’s game and mentioned the interest from their side, noting that Talakai had been on an Emerging Blues team in the past.
“He played in some lanes with NSW,” he said.
“He’s a proud Tonga man, there’s a mid-season test for Tonga at the same time as the second Origin… but he’s a NSW lad.
Speaking in the hangars after the game, Talakai said he was aware of the interest and wanted to represent his state.
“I really want to make myself eligible for NSW,” said the 25-year-old.
“I want to try to make Origin first and I hope I can do that.”
Under current eligibility rules, Talakai could play for NSW at Origin and then move on to Tonga for the World Cup.
He revealed he had previously been in contact with Mate Ma’a Tonga coach Kristian Woolf, who is currently based in the UK with St Helens.
“Tonga being a Tier 2 team, I know I can play there too,” Talakai said.
“I want to try to make Origin first and hopefully I can represent Tonga [too]. I want to represent my parents, I owe them a lot.
“I talked to Woolfy a lot.
“We already have this kind of relationship where if he chooses me, I’m grateful, I’m always just grateful to have him in my contacts.”