Having played a minimal role in his State of Origin debut, Siosifa Talakai admits he was surprised to retain his place in the NSW team for next week's series decider in Brisbane.
Talakai played just 17 minutes off the bench in the Blues' thumping game two victory over Queensland in Perth, coming on when the game was already well and truly decided.
Blues coach Brad Fittler resisted the temptation to axe the Cronulla wrecking ball in favour of fit-again Jack Wighton despite the Canberra star being arguably NSW's best performer in their narrow game one loss to the Maroons.
Fittler admitted it was a tough call to overlook Wighton and Talakai says he definitely would've understood if he'd been the one to make way.
"I wasn't expecting it," Talakai told AAP.
"I thought Wighton would've been in there.
"He's a great player. He's a freak. He killed it and was our best for game one.
"I thought he deserved the opportunity to be on the bench.
"I was happy to be in the reserves, the extended squad or even be dropped, because I know how good of a player he is."
His spot retained, Talakai is eager to do all that he can to help the Blues defy history and win a game three decider in Brisbane for just the third time in Origin history.
The 25-year-old may have had limited opportunity in game two but, with Fittler sticking with the dual hooker combination of Damien Cook and Api Koroisau, Talakai's ability to play in centres or the back-row gives the Blues coach added options with his interchange.
"It actually gives me chills because we're all looking forward to it," Talakai said of being part of a decider at Suncorp Stadium.
"Who doesn't love a challenge?
"We're all ready to face it.
"There's a big challenge at hand but we're all pretty keen to pull our socks up and give it a crack."
Australian Associated Press
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