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Kangaroos captain takes a swipe at Tonga-bound Andrew Fifita

Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith

BRISBANE,Australia-October 10: 3.35pm (BRISBANE TIMES): Australian rugby league captain Cameron Smith has taken a swipe at Andrew Fifita’s last-minute change of allegiance, but said he would welcome the Tongan forward back in the green and gold next season if he was selected.

Tonga have been the talking point ahead of this year’s World Cup, with Fifita joining New Zealand enforcer Jason Taumalolo in moves that have the minnows soaring into contention.

Smith was clearly miffed by Fifita’s change of heart, after he was selected to play for the Kangaroos only to pull the pin and join Tonga.

Jason Taumalolo has opted for Tonga

Jason Taumalolo has opted for Tonga

But the champion hooker acknowledged there isn’t much he can do about it.

“World Cup year is almost like a year off where you can pick where you want to play if you have any type of heritage in some nation,” Smith said. “I was a little bit shocked to be honest, both with Jason’s decision and Andrew’s, but at the end of the day it’s up to the individual and if they’re happy to represent the countries that they decide to play for then I’m happy for them.”

Smith was gruff when asked if he’d welcome Fifita back into the side once the World Cup was over.

“If he’s playing well enough, then why not,” Smith said.

The Storm premiership captain was joined by Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston at Suncorp Stadium on Monday to launch the pair’s February 23 pre-season testimonial club clash.

Thurston, who said his recovery from shoulder surgery was “ahead of schedule”, stuck by North Queensland teammate Taumalolo’s decision.

“Like Smithy I was shocked about it as well, but … as a mate and friend I support that decision,” Thurston said. “As long as he’s content with it in his heart then I’ll support him.”

But Thurston tempered the hype surrounding Tonga.

“No doubt they’re a good strong side, but we’ve got a pretty strong side as well,” the injured playmaker said. “But with what’s been happening it’s going to be a great, fiery World Cup.”

Thurston and Smith stand to benefit financially from the testimonial match, staged to acknowledge their contributions to the sport.

Both men will donate some of the profits to charities NRL Cowboys House, Ovarian Cancer Australia and Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and are comfortable with the initiative.

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