It was the moment Daniel Saifiti realised an unlikely Origin dream was about to become a reality.
As he waited in line at Melbourne airport with Knights teammates before boarding to fly back to Newcastle on Saturday night following the 34-4 loss to the Storm, he felt a tap on the shoulder. The towering prop looked around and a smiling Mitchell Pearce was on the phone, gestured for him to come over.
"Pearcey just said 'here, someone wants to talk to you'," Saififi said.
The someone was NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler, who had just told Pearce he was picking him at halfback for Origin ll in Perth. Saifiti suspected what was coming.
"I sort of had a feeling who it was just by Pearcey's smile," Saifiti said.
"Freddy's [Fittler] on the other end and just asked me, 'so what do you think about playing Origin?'. I couldn't believe it and I think I just said I can't wait. He didn't say too much. Just that he'd see me in camp the next day and we'll talk about it. It was all a bit surreal to be honest."
A cheer from teammates and the pats on the back followed. "Yeah, all the boys were over the moon for me. Jacob [twin brother] came down with us and was upstairs but I told him straight away and then I rang my partner," he said.
A couple of calls to his mother Beverley, who is holidaying in Fiji, went unanswered so she found out the big news via a family group phone message.
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Considered a shock selection in many quarters, it's understood the Fijian International put himself right in the picture for the Blues when he won a clear points victory over the Burgess brothers when the Knights beat Souths without injured teammate David Klemmer a couple of weeks ago.
But it wasn't until after Klemmer, out of Origin ll with a broken wrist, nominated him last week as someone Fittler should be looking at that Saifiti even considered he was a chance.
"I'm not sure if Klem knew anything when he tossed my name up but having him in my corner supporting me and backing me wouldn't have done me any harm that's for sure," he said.
It was all a bit surreal to be honest.Daniel Saifiti
"We've been starting together for a while now and I think he trusts me and maybe he put in a good word for me. I don't know. It's crazy. I can't wait.
"It doesn't get much bigger than Origin and I want to make sure I prepare really well and just take the opportunity with both hands. I really want to show I belong at that level."
Asked who will he have supporting him at the game in Perth, Saifiti joked: "Whoever is keen to pay for their flights over I reckon."
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