Blues rookie Jarome Luai said the feeling that he was not good enough, and not his passion for Samoa, was behind his view that he would never play home state football.
Luai was the shocking selection among the last seven additions to Brad Fittler’s 27-man NSW team after the grand final.
It wasn’t because of his skill – 23 assisted attempts in 23 games this year are proof of that.
But with halter partner Nathan Cleary stuck in shirt # 7 and Luke Keary and Cody Walker already on the team, a third fifth-eighth – one who played Junior Kiwis and for Samoa – seemed unlikely.
Speaking after his team’s 26-20 defeat in the finals to the Storm, shaken Luai admitted that it was not a lack of passion for NSW, but a lack of self-confidence that prevented him from pursuing Origin’s dream more strongly.
The final moments of the Storm-Panthers grand final
He said it was a good feeling to know that Fittler had joined the team.
“I am still very disappointed, but very happy that the opportunity came,” said Luai.
“It is probably the tallest football that can be played, very excited to get out there and experience it with the boys. Happy.”
Asked about his public comments in support of Samoa’s representation, Luai added: “This was showing that I wanted to play for Samoa, and if NSW came along, I would be happy to take this opportunity.
“I am very grateful for that now and I have a chance to get in there, try something new.
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“I think it’s something that I thought was not good enough to play, so I never really thought about it, ever.
“That is why I am happy, I think it is this opportunity, so I am very grateful for that. It will be a good time.”
An equally dejected Cleary welcomed the addition of three uncapped Panthers to the Blues team.
“It’s definitely a silver lining, all the boys found out after the game, that the four boys did,” said Cleary.
“It’s very good, especially for someone like Romey [Luai], it is his first year in the first series and he is chosen on the Blues team, it is incredible, I am super excited for him.
“People like Isaah Yeo too and Critter [Stephen Crichton], their first full season as well, this is definitely a silver lining tonight and I am very happy for them. “