David Klemmer’s passion for the Kangaroos is set to leave him battling the pain of an on-going wrist injury that has required regular needling since the start of the season.
Klemmer, who played 52 minutes of the second State of Origin for NSW with a broken wrist, also suffered ligament damage in his left wrist at the beginning of the season.
Because of his desire to continue playing for the Knights and Blues, Klemmer delayed surgery.
However, the star prop revealed ahead of Saturday night’s Test against Tonga that it was now too late for him to have the operation.
"I spoke to the surgeon, but I've missed the boat with getting surgery and it will be more about managing it,” Klemmer said.
After a six-week break since Newcastle’s season ended, Klemmer was able to get through last Friday night’s Test against New Zealand without a painkilling injection and he hopes to do so again this weekend in the triple-header at Eden Park.
“It feels good now with that rest. Normally I need a needle before a game but I didn't need a needle last week,” he said.
“I was nervous going into last week's game not needling it, but it was alright. It was a bit stiff but I was happy with how I pulled up.”
After a frustrating “roller-coaster” first season with the Knights, in which he said teammates relied on Kalyn Ponga to “step five people” or Mitchell Pearce “to do something spectacular”, Klemmer is enjoying being in camp with the Kangaroos.
After experiencing Tonga’s passionate supporter base in last year’s historic Test at Mt Smart Stadium, he is also excited to be playing before the “sea of red” again on Saturday night.
“I love playing in these games. Even though the crowd are going for the other side it pumps you up because it's so loud,” he said.
"I know they want their team to win, but even when we score the flags are going and everyone is screaming. It's pretty fun. Last year they had their fans singing our national anthem as well, and that was pretty cool.
“It's one of the coolest games to play in but also one of the toughest because they're a big side and hard to handle.”
Klemmer has a high opinion of Tonga mentor Kristian Woolf, who briefly held the Knights job in a caretaker capacity after Nathan Brown’s sacking.
The 25-year-old said he sore signs of Woolf’s coaching style in last weekend’s Tongan performance as they out muscled Great Britain 14-6, with forwards Jason Taumalolo, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Addin Fonua-Blake and Andrew Fifita leading the way.
Tevita Pangai jnr and Joe Ofahengaue missed the Test due to suspension but will add even more firepower to the Tonga forward pack when they return against Australia.
“Woolfy is a great coach, he loves to nail the details and he is a great defensive coach. I think that is why last week they were defensively very good. That is what he did at the Knights,” Klemmer said.
“He has got a lot of respect from the players. I respect him a lot. He helped my game out, I think my defence was really good this year and talking to him about the Tonga boys during his time at the Knights he has got a lot of respect and he loves being their coach as well so he is a proud Tongan coach.
“They're an explosive forward pack but if we can keep the ball in play and tire them out somehow and hold the football, we'll have some fun around the ruck there.”
After the Test, Klemmer will have a short break before returning to Knights training on November 25.
He said new coach Adam O’Brien had already indicated the players were in for a tough pre-season.
“He seems pretty fair dinkum,” Klemmer said.
“I don’t think I am going to be there for the first couple of weeks so I have got to make sure I am ready to go when I get back because it sounds like it is going to be pretty tough.
“I think that is what we need, a mentally tough state to finish footy games off. I think he has noticed that.
"We talked over the phone and he has clipped a lot of those things of us at the back end of the season. He wants to knock it on the head and get us right to finish footy games off.
“I think when those times were tough we were looking around at Kalyn to step five people to score a try or Pearcey to do something spectacular so I think overall as a playing group we have all got to put our hand up and help those blokes because we have sort of relied on them too much.
“I think Pearcey has copped the brunt of it and that was bullshit from us. I am pretty filthy on that. We relied on them too much.”