Raiders player Josh Papalii. Photo: Melissa Adams
He fought in vain to convince Josh Papalii to play for New Zealand, but Ruben Wiki insists there will be no bitterness if the Canberra Raiders star plays for the old enemy in the World Cup.
Papalii is rated a strong chance to win selection in Australia's squad named on Monday after a breakout year highlighted by his Origin debut for Queensland.
The 21-year-old made headlines late last year when he pledged his allegiance to Australia, despite being born in Auckland and signing a letter of intent to play for New Zealand.
Rubin Wiki during his heyday at the Raiders. Photo: Andrew Taylor
Former Raiders and New Zealand enforcer Wiki is Papalii's childhood hero, and tried to persuade the back-rower to commit to the black and white jersey.
The mission failed but the man who played a record 90 times for New Zealand has accepted Papalii's decision.
Papalii's family moved to Brisbane when he was five, and he represented the Maroons at junior level.
''He's spent most of his life in Australia so he's just following his heart,'' Wiki said.
''There's no hard feelings in which patch he chose. I touch base with him here and there to wish him luck. I'm really proud.
''It'd be awesome for him to wear the black and white jersey, but he told me out of respect he was going the other way, which is sweet.
''I watched him play Origin and he didn't look out of place at all.''
Wiki believes Papalii deserves a maiden Australia jersey after strong displays for Queensland in the final two games of this year's series. If overlooked, Papalii will play for his parents' homeland Samoa alongside Raiders teammate Anthony Milford.
'' He's been in really great form this year,'' Wiki said.
''He handled the atmosphere of that arena, the occasion and the pace of the game so well.
''His agility and impact off the bench really made a difference, and showed why Mal [Meninga, Queensland coach] wanted him so badly.''
Both bruising hitters, Wiki and Papalii have been compared ad nauseam but Wiki believes the Souths Logan junior has already eclipsed him.
''He's got me covered, he's got a sidestep for starters, and has a lot more to offer than I did,'' Wiki said.
''Josh has got that X-factor and Australia is very lucky to have him their stable.
''I was just raw and wanted to take people's heads off.''
He also backed Papalii's decision to renege on a three-year deal he signed with Parramatta and re-commit to Canberra.
Wiki was embroiled in a similar tug-of-war in 1995 when he went to court to stay at the Raiders after also signing with the Warriors. ''There is a lot of emotion going through your mind when you're choosing your path, I went through that in the early days, too,'' Wiki said.
''It's what's best for him and his family, and where he sees himself improving as a footballer and a person.
''Sydney's a fast life and there's a lot of temptations … he won't get too distracted in Canberra.''
Prop David Shillington is the other Raider whonis in contention for Australia.