Kiwi star Brandon Smith has delivered a hilarious jibe to Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo upon arriving at the New Zealand team hotel.
Mulitalo was included in the Maroons squad and picked to make his Origin debut in Game II of the 2021 series, but was ultimately ruled out to eligibility requirements.
Under the Origin eligibility rules, a player must have lived in either state before they turned 14 and Mulitalo had moved to Australian from New Zealand when he was 14.
As the Cronulla flyer entered the Kiwi’s team hotel in Auckland earlier this week, the cheeky Storm utility couldn’t help but put his two cents in.
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“Here comes the Queenslander,” Smith said.
The sledge broke the ice for Mulitalo who has been named to represent his country against Tonga on Saturday.
“It broke the barrier straight away. It was one of those things, I knew it was going to come up in the media this week,” Mulitalo said to NRL.com.
Having already been subject to confusing and disappointing eligibility problems, Mulitalo made it clear to coach Michael Maguire who he handed to play for.
The 22-year-old also qualifies to represent Toa Samoa but chose to pull on the black and white jersey.
“During the middle of last year he came to me when we were in the (NRL bubble) hotel together and said it (playing for the Kiwis) was always something he wanted to achieve,” Maguire told NRL.com.
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“He had to go through all the chatter about where he would play. But I have sort of got to know Ronaldo over many years and he has always been a passionate Kiwi boy and he explained that to me a long time ago.”
Now Mulitalo is fully focused on performing for his country and expressed how much it means to him to pull on the jersey.
“I played my junior rugby league here (New Zealand) and I am a south Auckland boy from Otara,” Mulitalo said.
“I want to do the nation proud. I am pretty clear to Madge that I will be there to put my best foot forward for the World Cup.
“I got a bit shaky when I was putting the jersey on for the first time. It felt like a full circle moment.
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“Even when I put the training kit on the first night of camp I went and showed by parents like a proud little boy.”
Mulitalo has been in scintillating form for the Sharks, forming a scary partnership on the left with Siosifa Talakai.
But now he will line-up against another teammate, Sione Katoa, who will be his opposite winger for Mate Ma’a Tonga on Saturday afternoon.
“We were texting each other little funny messages about what we will do to each other if we collide. My bet is we will talk like we are going to have fun but then run straight into each other,” Mulitalo said.