James Tamou of the Kangaroos during the Australian Kangaroos training session at Western Springs Stadium in Auckland, yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Australian forward Sam Thaiday has maintained he long ago cast aside an on-field fight he had with Kangaroos debutant James Tamou.
The sin-binning of the pair for their part in a 2010 brawl at NRL level is an intriguing sub-plot to the controversy which has erupted this week around Tamou, whose selection came after he pledged his allegiance to Australia despite being born in New Zealand.
''A few things went on, but that happens,'' Thaiday recalled of the fight. ''I've had a few little altercations on the field with blokes I've [later] become teammates with.
''That's the beauty of representative football - you take people from all different clubs and you put them all into one team. It's the best of the best. For that 80 minutes, you're a team and you're teammates and all that other stuff gets pushed aside.''
Tamou earned the wrath of Thaiday in the fiery match at Dairy Farmers Stadium after he punched Broncos prop Josh McGuire.
Thaiday came from some distance to retaliate and the pair, along with Cowboys player Anthony Watts, were sent to the sin bin.
''It is that old cliche, what happens on the field stays on the field,'' Thaiday said. ''I'm not one to hold grudges or anything like that. It's all in the past.''
At the time, Tamou spoke of his regret over punching McGuire.
''It was the wrong way to go about it,'' he said.
''I just got on the field and I wanted to get involved and it was a rush of blood. I regret my actions … I could have handled it a whole lot better. I'll live and learn from it.''
But if anything, Thaiday agreed the fight showed Tamou would not take a backward step should the Kiwis target him for his switch, as predicted by many.
''He's a tough, fiery lad,'' the Brisbane skipper said. ''I'm sure he'll be copping it from all sides, from the players on the field to the fans in the stand. I'm sure he'll be very happy to put that Australian jersey on and represent Australia with pride. He'll brush all that other stuff aside and make sure he plays the outstanding footy that he's been playing this year for the Cowboys.''
Thaiday said Tamou's form had clearly justified his selection.
''Jimmy's been playing some good footy for the Cowboys and I'm sure he'd have been selected in either team,'' he said. ''But he put his hand up and said he wanted to play State of Origin, making him eligible for Australia as well. The Australian selectors would have been silly not to pick him, because he has been one of the form front-rowers this year in the competition.
''That's his choice. He wants to play State of Origin football. It's going to be tough for us as Queenslanders because he is such a big lad and he gets through a lot of work.
''I think he's a player who's built for State of Origin. He deserves all the accolades he can get for the footy he's been playing.''
The back-rower said Tamou would provide invaluable impact off the Australian interchange.
''He's always on highlights, he's always in [Broncos] video sessions when we are playing the Cowboys as a marked player and a key player that we need to watch,'' Thaiday said. ''He's a regular starter for the Cowboys but he was an impact player for the Cowboys to start off with, before he earned the right to start, and he did a great job for them there. He'll come on at a hundred miles an hour and he can really bring a bit of aggression.''
That said, Thaiday expected aggression to be a factor in the contest well before Tamou is thrust into it, given the Kiwis' much-publicised lack of success in the mid-season Test match.
''The last time we played them over here [in 2010], we were very lucky to get away to a good start, and put some points on them early,'' Thaiday said.