What started as a Pacific Test soon became an impressive Queensland State of Origin audition for Korbin Sims on the Gold Coast on Saturday night.
Holding the Papua New Guinea reins, Queensland coach Mal Meninga claimed the Maroons needed Sims’ passion after watching the Newcastle forward inspire Fiji’s 22-10 Test win.
And Fiji coach Rick Stone believed an Origin call-up was looming for Sims, who rattled off 37 tackles and ran 157m.
Unlike his NSW-aligned brothers Tariq and Ashton, Korbin Sims is eligible to play for Queensland after signing with the Broncos at 16 and playing his junior footy with a Brisbane feeder club.
Meninga may not have enjoyed looking at the scoreboard but he liked what he saw on the field from Fiji lock Sims.
“He’s the type of player every club wants and certainly our Origin team needs,” Meninga said.
“He has passion playing for the Knights, passion for Fiji and I know he will have passion playing for Queensland.”
Asked if Sims should be on Meninga’s radar, his Newcastle and Fiji coach Stone said: “I don’t think he is far away, that is probably a fair call.
“It’s a big step but he showed some mental resolve tonight.
“We had a couple of local blokes who struggled with the pace to be honest so he took it on his shoulders to play big minutes – it was a monumental performance.”
In their first official Test against each other, Fiji lived up to their runaway favourites tag by cruising to a 18-0 halftime lead thanks to a try-scoring double by Melbourne winger Marika Koroibete.
However, PNG – boasting just two NRL players to Fiji’s nine – hit back hard after the break with tries to Matt Trnka (53rd minute) and teenage man mountain Stanton Albert (68th).
But Fiji centre Fabian Goodall iced the result when he intercepted an errant pass by PNG fullback Josh Damen to race 60m and score.
PNG had hoped to end a dire trot since their last Test victory at the 2009 Pacific Cup.
“For these guys it is just about self belief,” Meninga said of PNG’s second half turnaround.
“When they think about how good they can be and have confidence in their own ability they start to play well.”