Tino Fa’asuamaleaui is determined to follow in the footsteps of his idol Petero Civoniceva and win a premiership before playing in the State of Origin cauldron.
The 20-year-old prop, who credits fatherhood and having his partner Jordan Ngarimu and infant daughter Alina in the Storm "bubble" for keeping him grounded in his breakout NRL season, is set to be named in Wayne Bennett’s Maroons squad after Sunday’s grand final against Penrith.
"Petero was one of my idols growing up, being a big fella in the middle who could really move. I look at what he has done at club and Origin level and will try to do the same," he told NRL.com.
"I do think it is going to beneficial to get some big finals games under my belt and then if I do get a chance in Origin to take that form into playing for Queensland like Petero did, just so long as I get the job done on the weekend it will be pretty cool.
"I spoke to my dad straight after our [preliminary final] win over the Raiders and he just said to have fun this week and soak it all in.
"I won’t change too much from what I’ve been doing all year. I will just come on and run hard and tackle hard."
Civoniceva won a premiership in 1998 with Brisbane before making his Origin debut three years later after injuries prevented him from doing so sooner. He went on to play 33 games for the Maroons.
The dual-premiership winner said Fa’asuamaleaui was on his way to a stellar career.
Match: Panthers v Storm
Grand Final -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney
"The way the season is with Origin after the premiership it is important for Tino to focus on what is most important for the Storm, and it is clear he is focused on winning a title with Melbourne first," Civoniceva told NRL.com.
"Winning a premiership before Queensland selection would be a fantastic way to go into his debut Origin camp.
"I won the comp in 1998 with Brisbane and was injured at the back end of 2000 and missed the grand final win over the Roosters but it was huge for me to have that early finals football under my belt before I made my Queensland debut in 2001.
"For Tino, just playing well in finals football and getting that big-game experience is going to give him a lot of confidence on the biggest stage in our game."
Fa’asuamaleaui grew up in Gympie with the full intention of being a career Bronco and emulating Petero.
"The only time I have spoken to him is when I got my Queensland under 20s jersey presented to me last year. For it to be Petero ... I was starstruck," he said.
Which team will be better suited to wet conditions?
"Being a Queenslander, the Broncos were the No.1 team so I always looked up to the Broncos and fellas like Petero and Gorden Tallis.
"I was in the Broncos system since I was about 10, just doing training sessions with the younger crews and academies. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I left.
"The Storm came knocking and then I met Craig [Bellamy] and I loved what he was doing at the club. He was so welcoming to me and my family and we decided it was a good choice for us. It was probably the best decision I have made in my life to join Melbourne."
He said leaving Melbourne to join the Titans was the right decision for one good reason.
Will grand final experience get Storm over the line?
"I am at peace with it. It is meant to be," he said.
"I signed at the Titans for my family. I enjoy being a dad. I have got a daughter, Alina, who is not even two yet, and I want her to be around her grandparents and her family and that is one of the main reasons I made the decision to go to the Gold Coast next year. It was a hard choice but family comes first.
“[Jordan and Alina] came into the bubble straight away where there are a lot of kids and they have made friends for life so it is going to be sad for them to leave.
"They have been with me for over one hundred days now and that has made me happy."