Eels proud of 'Aussie Sam' Radradra
When Semi Radradra's Parramatta teammates caught wind that the winger would make his Australian Test debut on May 6, they couldn't help but give him a new nickname.
"Aussie Sam he is now," Eels fullback Michael Gordon laughed. "No more Semi, it's Sam."
The softly spoken Fijian-born 23-year-old was one of four debutants named by coach Mal Meninga on Tuesday and will be Parramatta's only representative for the Kangaroos when they line up against the Kiwis in Newcastle.
"[When we found out] we started giving him a little bit of cheek in the gym," Gordon told NRL.com.
"I wanted to call him Aussie Bob but it didn't have a good ring to it so I think Sam is sticking for the moment. But we're all really happy for him.
"He's such a good player and it will be great watching him run out with and against the games' elite.
"Semi doesn't say much at the best of times but he'll do all his talking on the field."
Eels prop Danny Wicks was equally happy to see Radradra get the call-up.
"Proud of him is an understatement. He's worked hard for it," Wicks told NRL.com.
"It's an absolute pleasure to play for him and I don't think there's anyone who could have been picked in front of him in his position.
"He's been playing awesome football and he's just a strong human being. It's so exciting to watch him. It's a shame he can't play Origin because geez I think he'd turn the game upside down."
Radradra's ineligibility for New South Wales has come under much scrutiny in recent times with the Fijian flyer not playing in Australia until he was signed by the Eels in 2012.
The winger is the only player in the Kangaroos' 19-man squad not to play Origin – a fact that will remain unless the Origin eligibility laws are changed – but Australian coach Mal Meninga said it's time to give Radradra a break from such talk.
"At the end of the day he's eligible to play for Australia and he's the best winger in the competition. He deserves to be here so it's pretty hard not to put him in the side when he's eligible," Meninga said.
"It's unusual but he can't come through the state program based on the rules as it is now. We had to make a decision based on that merit and we thought he was the best left winger running around in the competition."
Radradra has already represented Fiji four times in the Test arena – including against the Kangaroos in a 2013 Rugby League World Cup semi-final – but Meninga was adamant he would do Australia proud.
"He has a passion for the country, he's lived here for over three years and he wants to play for Australia," Meninga said.
"I didn't coerce him into playing for Australia. It was his own decision and because of that he wants to play in the green-and-gold jersey."