Cowboys sensation Jeremiah Nanai has handed Queensland a huge boost by turning down an approach from New Zealand and committing to the Maroons.
Nanai is one of the hottest rising stars in the NRL, so much so that as many as half a dozen sides were chasing his signature earlier this year.
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He eventually signed a one-year extension with the Cowboys to the end of the 2023 season.
His performances this season caught the eye of New Zealand coach Michael Maguire who reportedly offered the 19-year-old a spot in his squad for the World Cup.
Nanai was born in New Zealand before moving to Cairns just before his 13th birthday. Crucially, it means he can be picked by the Maroons under the State of Origin eligibility rules.
Nanai told NewsCorp he was committed to Queensland.
“I have made my decision. I want to play for the Maroons, 100 per cent,” Nanai said.
“I’m glad I moved to Cairns when I was young enough (to be eligible for Queensland). Hopefully I do get the opportunity one day to play Origin for Queensland.
Nanai said the desire to walk in the footsteps of Maroons legends sealed the decision.
“There was interest from the Kiwis but I loved watching the big stars like ‘JT’ (Thurston), Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.
“When they were in the Queensland team, it was great seeing them win year after year and knowing Thurston is a Cowboys legend, I want to follow in his footsteps and pull on that Queensland jumper.
“My favourite Origin player was Greg Inglis (former Maroons captain and centre). He was just a freak, so strong and talented. I was always in awe of how good he was in big games.
“I would love to run onto Suncorp Stadium and give it to the Blues fellas.”
While still raw in NRL terms, Nanai is firmly on coach Billy Slater’s radar.
Speaking to NewsCorp, Slater dropped a bombshell by declaring no player from the 2021 campaign was guaranteed a spot.
“There are no positions locked in,” Slater told News Corp.
“I’m really enjoying what some of our more experienced Origin players have been doing on the field, but also in those positions are some other players playing really good football.
“I really enjoy watching all our Queenslanders play. In terms of locking people away in positions, that’s not something I’ve been doing.
“A lot of decisions get taken out of your hands come selection time. You can have your wish list but at the end of the day you’ve got to wait until 6pm on Sunday the 29th of May to get all of your cards on the table.
“At the end of the day the players will decide who wants to play for Queensland. If they get a jersey on the 8th of June they will have earnt it.