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NSW State of Origin stars face big decision after being named for Tonga in NRL representative round

NSW Blues stars Daniel Tupou and Kotoni Staggs face a very important decision after the pair were officially named in Mate Ma’a Tonga’s expanded roster for next weekend’s test against New Zealand.

According to international eligibility rules, a player can play Origin as well as for a country like Tonga – but the games are only a day apart, so Tupou and Staggs can only pick one.

It puts the duo in an invincible position.

Honor their ancestry and family, or honor their native state?

Daniel Tupou (left) comforts Kotoni Staggs (right) during State of Origin game one on June 8

Daniel Tupou (left) comforts Kotoni Staggs (right) during State of Origin game one on June 8

Tongan players celebrate after historic victory over the kangaroos in 2019

Tongan players celebrate after historic victory over the kangaroos in 2019

It is a decision that must bear in mind that, after a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami, Tonga needs the best men possible to give the tiny island nation a valuable injection of happiness and pride.

But the NSW Blues must also win Game 2 to keep their Origin dreams alive for 2022.

Fortunately, the coaches of both teams are extremely understanding of the predicament Staggs and Tupou find themselves in.

NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler will name his State of Origin team this Sunday

NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler will name his State of Origin team this Sunday

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has selected a few hopeful Blues in his vast roster

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has selected a few hopeful Blues in his vast roster

NSW coach Brad Fittler and Tonga coach Kristian Woolf have refused to swap in a public war over fitness, with the latter saying the pair had been highly collaborative throughout the situation.

“I spoke to Freddy, and the last thing we both wanted was for them to be left out of one shift and not mentioned in the other,” Woolf told police. Sydney Morning Herald about selecting the pair.

“Nobody wants to see these two playing football next weekend. You want to see the best players play. I’m glad they have a foothold in both camps… we’ll meet again on Friday, and of course will need an answer before Sunday anyway.’

Staggs has made two appearances for Tonga and has both Indigenous and Tongan ancestry

Staggs has made two appearances for Tonga and has both Indigenous and Tongan ancestry

Daniel Tupou makes a break for Tonga in 2018 against Samoa

Daniel Tupou makes a break for Tonga in 2018 against Samoa

Woolf believes that ‘Origin should not hinder (a player’s) ability to play international football’ – a sentiment probably everyone but the ARL agrees.

Staggs played twice for Mate Ma’a and was selected as five-eighth, while winger Tupou has been a regular since 2013, earning 14 caps.

Tupou makes a run in Tonga's 2018 Invitational match against Samoa

Tupou makes a run in Tonga’s 2018 Invitational match against Samoa

The huge difference in pay (Tongan players earn $2,000 each, while NSW players earn $15,000 per game) probably wouldn’t even cross both players’ minds when making the decision, with Woolf saying he just wanted it to be. couple would do what was best for them, and their families.

“We just want them to make a decision that’s right for them and their families. If that’s Tonga, fine, if it’s NSW we also understand the reasons why,” he said.

“We know we can’t compete financially, but the pride of representing Tonga – and the pride they take when they come together – is a big reason why these guys want to play for Tonga.”

Jason Taumalolo (center back) will be captain Mate Ma'a Tonga again next weekend

Jason Taumalolo (center back) will be captain Mate Ma’a Tonga again next weekend

Andrew Fifita shows how much playing for Mate Ma'a means to him

Andrew Fifita shows how much playing for Mate Ma’a means to him

Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita headed the squad, with NRL stars Haumole Olakau’atu, Keaon Koloamatangi, Sitili Tupouniua, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Tevita Pangai Jnr also high profile inclusions.

It is highly unlikely at this stage that Tupou or Staggs will be kicked out of Fittler’s squad, despite Tupou being under pressure from Josh Addo-Carr and Staggs recovering from a shoulder injury he sustained in Game 1.

So the decision to play with Mate Ma’a or NSW can rest entirely on the shoulders of the couple.

Tonga squad

1. Tolotau Koula (sea eagles) 2. Daniel Tupou (cocks) 3. Siosifa Talakai (sharks) 4. Mosese Suli (dragons) 5. Sione Katoa (sharks) 6. Kotoni Staggs (Broncos) 7. Talatau Amone (dragons) 8 Siosiua Taukieaho (Roosters) 9. Siliva Havili (Rabbitohs) 10. Addin Fonua-Blake (Warriors) 11. Sitili Tupouniua (Roosters) 12. Keaon Koloamatangi (Rabbitohs) 13. Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys) 14. Soni Luke (Panthers) 15. Haumole Olakau’atu (Sea Eagles) 16. Tevita Pangai Junior (Bulldogs) 17. Tevita Tatola (Rabbitohs) 18. Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans) 19. Will Penisini (Eel) 20. Isaiya Katoa (Panthers) 21. Andrew Fifita ( Sharks) 22. Joe Ofahengaue (Wests Tigers) 23. Starford To’a (Wests Tigers) 24. Christian Tuipulotu (Sea Eagles) 25. Eliesa Katoa (Warriors)

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