How much thought did Daniel Saifiti give to a NSW call-up before Newcastle teammate David Klemmer put his name forward as a possible replacement for Origin II?
"Not one bit," Saifiti told reporters in Newcastle on Thursday, but he felt humbled to be considered Origin-worthy by his Knights pack partner and was ready to go if required.
Klemmer is recovering from a fractured left wrist and will miss the game at Optus Stadium on June 23 but is confident of playing in the third and possibly deciding match at ANZ Stadium on July 10.
Though he said he would support whoever NSW coach Brad Fittler selects to fill the void in Perth, Klemmer nominated Saifiti as a more than worthy candidate who had passed two Origin-calibre auditions in Newcastle's recent victories over the Rabbitohs and Roosters.
A similar showing against Kiwi Test props Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona when Saifiti leads the Knights pack against leaders Melbourne at AAMI Park on Saturday would only enhance his chances, though he was not building his hopes up.
Storm v Knights - Round 14
"It definitely means a lot coming from big 'Klem'. We've got a close relationship now and I know he trusts me when we're on the field, so to back me like that is pretty cool," Saifiti said.
"I'm a realist and I know it's unlikely but if I did get picked, I'd take it with both hands and put my best foot forward, that's for sure.
"… To be honest, I'm focused only on Newcastle. I wasn't thinking about it before the Rabbitohs game and I felt like I did all right, so I've just got to have the same mindset this week against a good Melbourne Storm pack, so it's not going to affect me at all."
In his fourth NRL season with Newcastle, 23-year-old Saifiti has always shown promise and potential but has become a more consistent player since Klemmer and former Storm prop Tim Glasby joined the Knights last summer and took him under their wing.
"He [Klemmer] is a big reason, to be honest with you. Since me and Klem and 'Glas' have been starting, we've got a real good combination," he said.
"Dave does all the hard work, and so does Tim, and I just try to bring impact, so those two coming to the club is definitely a reason why I think I've been playing consistent footy."
Klemmer is a man of few words but, in his absence last Friday, he challenged Saifiti to stand up to the Burgess brothers and a Rabbitohs team that had won nine straight against Newcastle stretching back to 2011.
Helping inspire the Knights to a drought-breaking 20-12 victory, Saifiti responded with an aggressive performance in the middle. It reached flashpoint just before half-time when he and Thomas Burgess came to blows and were banished to the sin-bin to calm down.
"I was just on the massage table and it was just me and him alone, and he said it was a real good opportunity for me to stand up and take it with both hands," the Fijian international said of Klemmer's pre-game words of wisdom.
"He said he had full faith in me to get the job done."
Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Knights
As for his confrontation with Thomas Burgess, Saifiti said it was all forgotten at full-time.
"We both sort of took it personally as in their middles trying to get over our middles, and that goes a long way to winning the game as most people know, so there wasn't much to it," he said.
"It was just two big aggressive forwards going at it, and we shook hands after the game and said good game, good luck for next week, and that's it.
"I've never really been in that type of stuff on the field before, in first grade anyway, so it was different but I really enjoyed it.
"In the past, we've been guilty of getting rolled over by the Melbournes, the Roosters and the Rabbitohs, the likes of those forward packs, but we talked about it leading into these three games that we can stamp our authority and show that we're a pack Newcastle can be proud of."