The opportunity to help build Tonga into a genuine international rugby league powerhouse is behind the decision of Broncos lock forward Tevita Pangai to turn his back on possible Origin selection for the Blues.
When NSW coach Brad Fittler sits down to select his 17 for game one on June 5 at Suncorp Stadium, he won't consider Pangai after the 23-year-old pledged his representative allegiance to Tonga.
Part of the Tongan team that injected renewed interest in the international game through their 2017 World Cup defeat of New Zealand, Pangai said that it was more important to him to help build on that momentum than play in the Origin arena.
He joins the likes of Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita and Siua Taukeiaho as players to have committed to the Tongan team and said they have lofty ambitions in the lead-up to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England.
"We love playing for Tonga, it's the pinnacle for us,” Pangai said before Brisbane’s clash with the Warriors in Auckland on Saturday evening.
"It's not so much about the finances, we want to represent Tonga and we want to play against the best teams.
Taumalolo ready for another sea of red in New Zealand
“That's the only way we're going to get better. We need the best players to play for Tonga and if that means giving up an Origin jersey because of the Test in the middle of the Series … we just want to play against the best.
"The world Cup in 2021 is a big thing for us and we want to get as many games as we can against the Tier 1 nations and get more Tests. That's the only way we're going to get better.”
The 34-16 loss to the Kangaroos was the first time in 27 Test matches that Tonga had lined up against Australia, more than 26,000 fans creating a heaving sea of red and white at Mt Smart Stadium.
Tonga and New Zealand will meet for the sixth time next month in the opening game of the Oceania Cup.
Tonga also play Great Britain in the opening game of the Lions' tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and face off against the Kangaroos again in an international triple-header on November 2 at Eden Park.
"We've got some momentum going for Tonga and we don't want to lose that,” Pangai explained.
"Players like Andrew Fifita, Siua Taukeiaho, Jason Taumalolo, they're trying to push the international game.
“Obviously we've got a big support from the Tongan people so we just want to give back to them.”
Warriors v Broncos - Round 11
As for his conversation with Fittler prior to the Origin teams being announced, Pangai said he felt like it was “the right thing to do”.
"The senior players in the Tongan team – Siua Taukeiaho from the Roosters – wanted the players not to jump ship,” said Pangai.
“That was the message to me from Kristian Woolf, the coach, and I just thought that I wanted to stay with Tonga so I let ‘Freddy’ know.
"I just tried to do it the right way and that was the advice I got, to let him know.
"Obviously I've been in contact with Freddy since before last year's series and I just thought it was the right thing to do, to let him know early that I want to represent my family and stick with Tonga.
"I feel like it's a relief, now I can focus on playing good footy for the Broncos and keeping the 13 jersey.”