Kiwi star Brandon Smith delivered a hilarious jibe to Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo upon his arrival at the New Zealand team’s hotel.
Mulitalo was included in the Maroons squad and chosen to make his Origin debut in Game II of the 2021 series, but was ultimately left out of the eligibility requirements.
Under Origin’s eligibility rules, a player must have lived in either state before turning 14 and Mulitalo had moved to Australia from New Zealand when he was 14.
As the Cronulla flier walked into the Kiwi team hotel in Auckland earlier this week, the cheeky utilitarian Storm couldn’t help but add his two cents.
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“Here comes the Queenslander,” Smith said.
The sled broke the ice for Mulitalo who was nominated to represent his country against Tonga on Saturday.
“It immediately broke the barrier. It was one of those things I knew was going to happen in the media this week,” Mulitalo told NRL.com.
Having already been subject to confusing and disappointing eligibility issues, Mulitalo made it clear to manager Michael Maguire who he had entrusted to play for.
The 22-year-old also qualifies to represent Toa Samoa but opted to don the black and white jersey.
“In the middle of last year he came to me when we were together in the (NRL bubble) hotel and told me that (playing for the Kiwis) was still something he wanted to achieve,” said Maguire told NRL.com.
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“He had to go through all the chatter about where he would play. But I kind of got to know Ronaldo over many years and he was always a passionate Kiwi boy and he explained that to me a long time ago.
Now Mulitalo is fully focused on performing for his country and has expressed how much it means to him to wear the shirt.
“I played my junior rugby league here (New Zealand) and I’m a South Auckland boy from Otara,” Mulitalo said.
“I want to make the nation proud. I’m pretty clear to Madge that I’ll be there to give my best for the World Cup.
“I was a little shaky when I first put the shirt on. It was like a full circle moment.
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“Even when I put on the practice kit on the first night of camp, I went to the parents like a proud little boy.”
Mulitalo has been in scintillating form for the Sharks, forming a chilling left-wing partnership with Siosifa Talakai.
But now he will face another teammate, Sione Katoa, who will be his opposite winger for Mate Ma’a Tonga on Saturday afternoon.
“We were sending each other funny little messages about what we would do if we bumped into each other. I bet we’ll talk like we’re going to have fun, but then meet again,” Mulitalo said.