Mixed gene pool leaves Latu spoiled for choice
City Origin debutant Leilani Latu could very well have left coach Brad Fittler scratching and crawling for another prospective player to face their Country counterparts in Tamworth on Sunday if his "weird family tree" swung him another way.
Latu – who played for the Indigenous All Stars in February this year – is obviously eligible for New South Wales and Australia. But the 23-year-old told NRL.com he can also represent Tonga and Italy.
Latu's mother is half-Italian and half-Torres Strait Islander while his father is a full-blooded Tongan. His mixed genetics ensured a tough decision had to be made in the weeks leading into the NRL's representative round.
Either way Latu is spoiled for choice when it comes to next year's Rugby League World Cup, he almost featured for Italy back in 2013.
"It's a very weird family tree, and that's where you get the accent from. I have all the physical features from the islander side of things obviously too," Latu laughed.
"It's a mixed gene pool but both my parents have especially helped me. I have a lot of choices at my disposal but with the support of my family, my manager and church the choices will speak for themselves.
"I'll be calm about any choice that I make. Whether it's Tonga, Australia or Italy for the World Cup next year, I'll be behind them 100 per cent and I'll be giving them my 100 per cent."
With his City debut beckoning and after a month of starring performances for the Panthers – including a Man of the Match effort against the Roosters in Round 7 – Latu finds no difficulty in keeping himself grounded thanks to his faith.
"Bar playing NRL, I'm very disciplined with my faith. I love my church so much. If I'm not doing anything throughout the week regarding footy, I'm always usually doing something with my church," Latu said.
"My partner and I are on the youth committee at church so we're always looking after the youth and I love them as my own. God plays an important role in my life and he's helped keep my feet grounded.
"All the success the NRL can bring in my life, it won't mean anything in comparison to what god gives me."
Latu is quick to point out that he will be giving his all for Fittler this weekend.
"I'm excited to see what the week brings and excited for the game. I'm here with some of my very good mates now and it's going to be an awesome experience to do this for the very first time," Latu said.
"Country are stacked but having some of my Panthers teammates around me will calm down a bit.
"I'm always grateful for what [Penrith coach] Anthony Griffin sees in me. All I can ever do is put my best foot forward and I'm going to try and do the same for Brad Fittler."