When the NSW State of Origin team gets announced on Sunday evening, one player who won’t be standing by his phone, waiting for a call, is popular Panthers winger Brian To’o.
In fact, in recent weeks, To’o can’t bear to hear or even see his name tossed up in mock Origin sides as he says his “sole focus” is on Penrith and Penrith only.
But, after a career-best start to the season where he’s topping multiple statistics, not receiving a Blues call-up from coach Brad Fittler in the coming days would be a big kick in the guts for the proud Mt Druitt product.
“It’s hard because my family talk about Origin 24/7,” To’o told Extra Time.
“If they are talking about it in the living room, I walk out and go to my bedroom – it’s got to that point.
“There was a time where I was having dinner with my family and my Dad whispers ‘so do you think you’ll play for the Blues?’. I said, ‘I’m done’ and left the table.
“Dad always takes the piss out of me and tries to make jokes, but I just have to not think about it and think about the Panthers first.”
The 22-year-old is one of eight Panthers in line for a Blues jumper this year, with many experts predicting Penrith could be in for a record haul of Origin players due to their undefeated start to the season.
To’o said it would be a ‘pinch me’ moment to don a sky-blue jumper alongside his best mates.
“It would be pretty special to play alongside a few of the Penrith boys and put on the Blues jersey as well,” he said.
“My missus is always keeping me grounded and making sure I’m not thinking about it too much, but it would be pretty special and pretty cool to play alongside my Penrith brothers in the Blues jersey.”
Before Origin squads are named, To’o and his Panthers teammates have to get through Saturday afternoon’s clash against the bottom-placed Bulldogs at BlueBet Stadium unscathed.
The St Marys junior said he’s expecting another fiery encounter just like they experienced back in Round 2 at Bankwest Stadium.
“They will be coming out swinging… every team is the same, every team is out to beat us,” To’o said.
“The first game against them we knew it would be heated at times and it did get heated at times. I think it will flare up again on Saturday, but we will see.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.