Leilua maintains Origin ambition
Newcastle Knights centre Joey Leilua insists he hasn't turned his back on playing Origin for New South Wales despite electing to play for Samoa rather than City Origin over the representative weekend.
Leilua's one-on-one duel with Solomone Kata was one of the highlights of Samoa's 18-16 win over Tonga on Saturday and while he was guilty of trying to do too much on occasion, his class was obvious throughout.
Asked to play for City by coach Brad Fittler, Leilua drew widespread praise, particularly from within the Samoan camp, for committing to play for his nation of heritage rather than appear in the City-Country clash in Wagga, giving greater credibility to the Pacific Test with his presence.
But with injury concerns over the likes of Josh Morris and Dylan Walker Leilua said that if his form prior to Origin I warrants selection for the Blues that he would happily take up the opportunity.
"It wasn't tough for me at all, it was what I wanted to do," Leilua said of his decision after the game.
"I really want to play Origin but I thought to myself that if I was playing good enough footy they would select me. If not, then I'll continue to work on those parts of my game to get myself that jersey.
"It doesn't play up on my mind to be honest. If I'm playing good enough footy and they really want me I'll put my hand up, which I've said before.
"Until then, I didn't want to let the boys down for Toa Samoa and I couldn't play for them if I played in the City team."
Following the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and Four Nations last year, Leilua has now played eight Tests for Samoa and has been an integral figure in lifting the team to fourth in the Rugby League International Federation world rankings.
Brought in as 19th man for the Blues in Game One of the 2012 State of Origin series, Leilua's form to start 2015 rekindled the prospect of an Origin call-up and he knows a bounce-back by the Knights is crucial to his selection chances.
Heading into the representative round the Knights had lost four straight games and Leilua, like coach Rick Stone, is hoping the week off can revitalise their season.
"The team's not going so great is it? Do I have to be honest?" Leilua said when asked to diagnose Newcastle's drop-off.
"I think it's just getting our competitiveness back. We need to want to win and we had that in the first four games.
"If we were behind we came back and won the games but it's not only that, it's our mistakes as well that's costing us and we need to pick up on at our training sessions."