“I’d be still eligible for the Blues, but my heart is with Samoa.
“I know how good Samoa can be, there’s a lot of good young talent coming through, and the brothers I’ve grown up playing with want to play for Samoa as well – Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Spencer Leniu, Moses Leota, Tyrone May, we’re all eligible.
“We’ve seen what has happened with Tonga, and hopefully that’s something we can get going one day because I know how much of a threat Samoa can be to the other nations. If we all buy in, we will get a lot of rewards out of it.”
Samoa is a tier-two nation meaning Luai will still be eligible to play Origin. Cody Walker, Luke Keary and Jack Wighton would all be ahead of Luai in the NSW No.6 pecking order, but his on-field chemistry with Cleary might become too good to ignore.
Junior Paulo played with Luai for Samoa last November against Fiji and has since been selected in the NSW extended squad.
If Luai had chosen to play for New Zealand – he has already represented the Junior Kiwis – he would not be allowed play for the Blues or pick up the $30,000 cheque usually associated with games against Queensland.
He has been in arguably better form than Cleary the past month and is always prepared to play the pesky playmaker role, a trait Walker is also known for. Souths once tried hard to sign Luai, now he plans to torment them with his skills – and his words.
Cleary quipped: “It wouldn’t surprise me if they [Luai and Walker] come together and grab each other’s jerseys – they’re both pretty cheeky on the field but both play some really good footy.”
Luai said: “I think it gets me in the game more [being lippy] and it’s the competitive side in me.
“It’s never intentional because it’s never me off the field. But in the game, I’ll do everything I can to win. There are no friends out there, just brothers on my side of the field.
“I don’t really sledge. It’s more being cheeky around the ruck.”
Luai is also a fan of the in-form Walker. “I love the way he plays the game, it’s really instinctive, and his support play is really good as well,” he said. “Whenever there’s a break made, he’s always the one closest to the ball. That’s something I can use in my game.”
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Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.