'I am still pinching myself': Campbell-Gillard

His bags were packed and holidays booked but Fiji was the last place Penrith giant Reagan Campbell-Gillard expected to lob into this week.

 

Especially after knocking back Fiji's offer to play in the upcoming Rugby League World Cup.

Not that the Panthers enforcer is complaining.

Campbell-Gillard, 24, was the big beneficiary of Andrew Fifita's controversial call to switch his World Cup allegiance to Tonga days after being unveiled in the Kangaroos squad.

All of sudden Fifita was out of Mal Meninga's line-up - and Campbell-Gillard was in.

A few frenzied calls to his travel agent and Campbell-Gillard was later re-packing his bags for Australia's warm-up tournament in Fiji.

Instead of a few beers by the beach, Campbell-Gillard will hope to toast his new-found success with a strong showing in Australia's 40-minute games against Fiji and PNG in Suva on Saturday.

"I pulled out to play for Fiji, had my holidays booked and ready to go," he said.

"When I found out I was in the team I just cancelled every bloody trip I had - I had travel insurance.

"But things happen.

"I think you need a bit of luck in football and there was a bit of luck coming my way."

The Panthers prop was initially offered a World Cup spot by Fiji thanks to mother Georgina's heritage.

As luck would have it his mother was already visiting Fiji on holiday and will extend her stay to take in the warm-up tournament at Suva's ANZ Stadium.

Campbell-Gillard played one Test for Fiji in 2014.

Cambell-Gillard has benefited from Fifita's defection. Pic: Getty

The Penrith juggernaut not surprisingly had no problem with Fifita's last-minute Tonga call.

"He made his decision to play for Tonga," he said.

"You don't get too many opportunities like this - I am going to try and make the most of this."

Campbell-Gillard said he pulled out of the Fiji World Cup squad because he had already tasted international football with the Bati three years ago.

But donning the green and gold?

He didn't have to think twice about that.

"I am still pinching myself that I have made this team," said Campbell-Gillard, who initially thought Penrith teammate Peter Wallace was joking when he announced his Kangaroos call-up.

"I didn't believe I would be in this team.

"I never had the goal for it to happen this quick but I will take it.

"I want to do this jersey proud."

If Campbell-Gillard earns a Test nod he will join an elite group who have played for Australia before State of Origin.

That prompted more head spinning from the intimidating Penrith forward.

"I didn't believe I would be in this situation," he said.

"The main focus is Penrith but hopefully down the track I get to play Origin.

"I can use this to take back to club level and hopefully better my football.

"I can't wait."

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