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Samoa looks to poach Tabuai-Fidow ahead of next year's rugby league Test calendar

Andrew Mathieson -

Indigenous talent Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is one of several Australian rugby league Test players that have been targeted again to switch allegiances for good to play on their Samoan heritage.

Toa Samoa coach, Ben Gardiner, has been keen to exploit the goodwill that the Penrith assistant coach has built with the likes of international regulars Jerome Luai, Stephen Crichton and Brian To'o to convince others to play for the nation of their parents and grandparents.

Smarting from two heavy defeats in the Pacific Championships including one against the Kangaroos, Gardiner admitted to contacting every Samoan dual-eligible player at NRL clubs to build depth into their player lists.

"It's about building trust - we wanted to connect with all of the players, and let all the players that were eligible to play for Samoa know that we wanted them here," he said.

"At the end of the day, it was a decision for them to make.

"We have chatted to them throughout the year and talked to them about camps, and what was going to happen, then when I came on board towards the end of the year, I reached out to all of the players as well.

"We would open our arms to any player that wanted to commit to Samoa."

The Queensland Origin star broke his ankle on debut for Samoa's warriors in last year's World Cup opener against England before in the new year declaring his desire to play for Australia instead.

The 22-year-old had been engrained in the Kangaroos rugby league culture since he was named in the Australian schoolboys squad in 2019, in addition to being a gifted rugby union player for Brisbane Grammar School and invited to join the Gold Coast AFL development squad.

A breakout season for the Dolphins under veteran coach Wayne Bennett skyrocketed Tabuai-Fidow into Australian Test calculations for the year's end-of-the-season Pacific Championships.

"It's a dream to put on the Australian jersey and this is a good step for myself," Tabuai-Fidow told NRL.com on his selection.

"I'd love to play for Samoa - I played for Samoa in the World Cup representing my dad's side, but it is one of my big dreams to put on the green and gold."

Tabuai-Fidow had grown up in Cairns to a Torres Strait Islander mother and a Samoan-born father.

The utility three-quarters, who played in the centres for the country of his birth against his dad's birthplace in Townsville last month, had previously got a taste of representing his mother's side of culture first with a berth in the Indigenous All-Stars side against the Maori rivals last year.

"My mum, who is a Torres Strait Islander, and I have a pretty strong connection," he said.

"The culture we have up there is pretty strong when it comes to rugby league because everyone up there loves the game and loves playing it as well."

That should deep root Tabuai-Fidow to commit to Australia for years to come, but under the new and loose eligibility rules this year, a shot at Samoa again may not be that long away.

Tabuai-Fidow, including Australians teammates Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Payne Haas, who both have direct Samoan heritage, can switch Test squads any time in a calendar year.

It is all in the name of ensuring that the rugby league Test matches remain competitive.

Only players eligible to play for dual tier-1 nations, Australia, New Zealand and England, cannot make a switch after playing their first Test.

"I know Samoa will always be there for me and will respect whatever I do," he said.

One-time Manly protagonist John Hopoate took to social media to tempt players to leave Australia after its poor 30-0 loss in the tournament final to New Zealand on Saturday.

While Hopoate played twice for Australia and once for Tonga during his international career, the controversial figure is one of the biggest proponents to the greater Pasifika cause.

Hopoate has been posting photos of players online, who opted to play for Samoa over Australia under the hashtag stronger together.

"All the Samoan boys need to do what these boys (Crichton, To'o, Paulo) are doing and repping where they come from," Hopoate wrote online.

"These guys get paid good from their clubs and they have chosen culture over money when it comes to international footy."

He has implored others to follow suit and turn out for the national side as their duty to their ancestors in an urgent plea.

"(There) were seven Samoans in the NZ squad and four for Australia," Hopoate added.

"Imagine how good their team would be if they came back – they would be very hard to beat.

"So, all (those) Samoan boys need to come back to make international footy grow – maybe NZ can keep (Nelson) Asofa-Solomona cause I don't think they want you (lol), but the rest can come.

"We need you guys with us so we can grow the game and showcase to the world that we can be a force to be reckon with."

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