Samoa stars eye another blue jumper
The higher, further, better and deeper Samoa go into this belter of a Four Nations tournament, the harder it's going to be for room-mates Tim Lafai and Joseph Leilua to let go.
But both boom centres are fully prepared for the day they get asked to do so, when NSW coach Laurie Daley's name appears on their phones and he asks them to give up the darker shade of blue for a lighter one.
"I've thought of it, thought of it pretty hard," Lafai told NRL.com about the prospect of playing State of Origin football.
"We got something special, the Toa Samoa boys. It's not just footy. It's that bond you have with your brothers. It'll definitely be hard.
"It's one of those things where you can't have it both ways. You gotta lose one to win one. It's the price you've got to pay."
That's why the powerful Bulldogs three-quarter sacrificed early marriage bliss for this. Two weeks ago the 23-year-old missed the tournament-opener against England and got hitched.
Only problem was there was no honeymoon. He got on a plane alright – but straight to Whangarei, New Zealand, for a nailbiting defeat to the Kiwis. And again, both he and his partner were ready for the sacrifice.
"When I left straight after the wedding it wasn't too bad," he said. "She just came down to Kiama [in camp this week], so it's all good. We knew from the start, during the NRL season, that after the wedding I was going to shoot off to the Four Nations. She's really understanding."
Toa Samoa's clash against Australia in Wollongong on Sunday isn't just a virtual second semi-final for a big Four Nations finale next weekend.
For the Kangaroos, it's a Test that will ensure their names don't go down in the history books as the first Australian team not to reach the final of an international rugby league tournament in half a century.
But for the seventh-ranked Samoans, it is simply the biggest game in their existence as a rugby league nation.
Why can we say that? Because they've never made it past the quarter-finals of a World Cup and nor have they ever played in front of a crowd in excess of 16,000.
So when you're talking about being able to handle big match occasions – which these days is coach-speak for Origin-ability, precisely the kind of conversations surrounding the Leilua, Lafai and Brisbane's Samoa prop Josh McGuire – then there is more at stake this weekend than a trip to Wellington next Saturday.
Toa Samoa coach Matt Parish said it on day one: these games against the world's best can make or break you.
"He just said to play a few good matches for the Four Nations, keep the eyes of the selectors up and back it up to kick off the next season and you never know what can happen," Lafai said.
"Origin is definitely a goal. You've got to work towards it. Do the little things right, play good in these Test matches and then NRL games and hopefully get a shot."
Leilua was a bit more circumspect when discussing his Origin prospects.
Two years ago the then-Roosters three-quarter was on Daley's extended bench before a switch to Newcastle where he was again on the outside looking in.
Now, with 17 tackle breaks against his name from two games in this tournament, the 22-year-old was also aware of the difficulty of rejecting a jumper he believes has brought out the best in him.
"There's just something about the jersey. When you put it on, when you play for culture, or for a certain people, there's a different feeling about it. You just want to give it your best and always do so whenever you put that jersey on," he said.
"It's a good opportunity to showcase yourself for Origin, but I'm not thinking ahead of myself. I just want to play good footy for Samoa and just try and get a win so we can hopefully make the finals. If we get this win and make the finals, we'll see where we go from there."
An Origin jumper, hopefully. But it might be a tougher day than he thought if and when that happens.
"It will be. But if it does, it does. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I just want to play good football and if I get selected in the Origin team, then obviously I'll have to give up this Samoan jersey. I don't want to do that, but if I'm selected I'm selected. I'll just do my best," he said.
"It's a bit sad that you can't play for your own country and not play Origin but I've always been a Blues supporter growing up."