How the King inspired Taulagi Origin rise

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Queensland have Wally Lewis to thank for Murray Taulagi, the winger who grew up in New Zealand with dreams of becoming an All Black.

The 23-year-old didn't even play rugby league until he was 16, when spotted by North Queensland recruiters after blitzing it as Brisbane State High School's rugby fullback.

He'd moved across the Tasman from Auckland with the rest of his family aged 11, on the advice of big brother JJ, a former Queensland Reds Super Rugby player.

And while he quickly credits JJ for his skills and confidence on a football field, Taulagi says the decision to chase a State of Origin debut came back to one moment, and another - more illustrious - BSHS graduate.

"One day I had Wally walk into one of our assemblies," Taulagi said. "To see him there was unreal and after that I was sort of just trying to follow his path.

"Growing up I was watching union more than league. I did dream of playing for the All Blacks but also supported Queensland.

"It was a tough decision (to switch codes) but I'm grateful I made it, and I grew up more over here in Australia and played most of my footy here, so thought it was the right thing to do for myself."

Taulagi beat Brisbane's Corey Oates to the wing spot vacated by the injured Xavier Coates, with fellow Cowboys flyer Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (head) also injured.

He doesn't boast Coates' aerial threat, instead relying more on powerful running and footwork to score nine tries this year and provide the attacking drive that has him ranked 11th for run metres and 14th for offloads in the NRL.

It was enough to convince Billy Slater to opt for Taulagi, despite the Queensland coach admitting he'd never seen Oates in better form.

Being part of the extended squad for the Sydney victory and playing outside club teammate Valentine Holmes will also help a winger who expects NSW to target him.

"And we've got Billy here, Johno (Thurston); a lot of experience and I think this week they'll be able to help me out with all the pressure," he said.

"The bunch of guys is a really good group, really close, and they'll be able to look out for me on Sunday."

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