Wade Graham admits he was as surprised as anyone to learn Sharks teammate Andrew Fifita had turned his back on the Kangaroos to link up with Tonga for the upcoming Rugby League World Cup.
The Cronulla back-rower – who is on track to make his Australian Test debut after being included in Mal Meninga's World Cup squad – was meant to be driven to the team's hotel in Mascot on Thursday morning by his premiership-winning teammate, only to discover that the barnstorming prop forward had withdrawn from the squad.
Fifita was originally named in Meninga's squad on Tuesday morning but will now forego a hefty pay day to represent Mate Ma'a for the first time since 2010 in a shock move that few saw coming after he had worked so hard to earn back his green and gold jersey for the Anzac Test after a four-year hiatus.
Despite the carpool confusion, Graham arrived at the hotel on time and backed his teammate's decision to follow his heart.
"He was supposed to give me a lift here this morning so I was scrambling late to get a lift in… I called my back-up Val (Valentine Holmes) and he got me here," Graham laughed.
"I didn't [see this coming]. I know how hard Andrew has worked over the last 18 months to get back into this team so I definitely didn't see it coming. I'm not in Andrew's head; he obviously feels like he wants to represent his Tongan heritage and that's what he wants to do. Kudos to him.
"Andrew's made that decision; he feels that's where his heart lies and he wants to represent his Tongan Heritage and that's a decision only Andrew can make. You'll have to ask him about the rest of it because I'm a bit selfish at the moment enjoying this ride for myself. [Maybe] I'll see Andrew in a couple of weeks in the opposition.
"Who an individual wants to represent is up to the individual. We're all happy for Andrew if he feels comfortable with that, and if he feels like that's who he wants to represent, well we're happy for Andrew."
Fifita's decision to represent Tonga came on the back of Jason Taumalolo's shock defection from the Kiwis to link up with Kristian Woolf's side and it's put the rest of the tournament on notice.
"They're definitely a great team. Those two players certainly add to any team that they plan in," Graham said.
"Obviously a lot has happened today so it's all hard to digest right now. I haven't been thinking about too much football – I've been thinking about myself – but we'll see what happens as the World Cup progresses."