Blues rookie ready for Maroons barrage
Blues debutant Daniel Saifiti knows what's coming his way in Perth on Sunday night. And he isn't worried or scared. In fact, he's looking forward to it.
More like Daniel Blue.
Branded a "more mobile version of Andrew Fifita" by future rugby league Immortal Darren Lockyer last year, NSW Origin debutant Daniel Saifiti has shown he also boasts similar belief and confidence as the one-time Blues spearhead
"Absolutely (Queensland will target me). Definitely,'' Saifiti said, without so much as flinching.
"I'm sure they'll (Queensland) be pretty niggly, but I enjoy that type of stuff.
"This is Origin football. I can't wait. I'm not shying away from that (pressure).
"I know that winning the middle of the field goes a long way to winning the game, especially State of Origin.
"I'm aware of it. I know what's to come. I'm ready for it.''
Of the seven changes to Brad Fittler's NSW side for Sunday night's Origin II, the 23-year-old born in Newcastle and who played his junior footy with the Entrance Tigers is the Blues biggest bolter.
Chosen ahead of prop-forward candidates who have worn the NSW jersey before including Reagan Campbell-Gillard, James Tamou and Matt Prior, Saifiti also held out hard-running Broncos forward Matt Lodge.
His performances against premiership heavyweights South Sydney and the Roosters was a turning point in his career.
Yet even Saifiti, just 75 games into his NRL career, admitted his selection to replace injured Knights teammate David Klemmer in the front row for NSW, came as a surprise.
"I wouldn't say I was nervous - more shocked on Saturday when I found out,'' Saifiti said.
"But it's sunk in over the last two days and having dinner with the boys, I just can't wait.''
Saifiti has taken crucial advice from Klemmer into Blues camp.
And his reaction to being asked how he felt about some commentators, including Test coach Mal Meninga, questioning his inclusion for the biggest game of the year, suggests Saifiti has taken some of Klemmer's trademark ruthless self belief for he and his teammates, on-board.
"I don't pay too much attention to (criticism) it to be honest,'' Saifiti said.
"The coaching staff have picked me so that's all that matters.
"The boys are backing me too. I just listen to my close friends, my teammates, my family … that's all that matters.
"When I spoke to Klem (Klemmer), he just told me 'soak up the week it goes real quick' and just gave me pieces of advice and all I've been thinking about is the 80 minutes ahead.
"He just said it's fast, it's physical, he said I would love it - that it suits my game. He said just enjoy it, you're going to play alongside the best players in NSW.
"They've all got my back out there, so I'll be sweet.''
Saifiti watched Origin I from a loungeroom with friends and his twin brother Jacob.
Incredibly, he is on the verge of playing in front of 60,000 fans at rugby league's historic-first Origin in Perth.
"I wouldn't say yes I'm ready, if I didn't think I was up to it,'' Saifiti said.
"This year, I feel like I've been going better than I have in past years.
"It's not Origin, but the last three teams (Souths, Roosters, Melbourne) I've played are the three best teams in the comp.
"Origin is a different beast and I feel like I'm ready for it.
"I'm just going to treat it like a normal game - I know it's going to be hard not too.''