You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Pasifiki Tonga, Buchanan enjoying NSW Under 19s camp life

It may be one of many goals that Loko Pasifiki Tonga and Hayden Buchanan have ticked off over the past 12 months, but the prestige of Under 19s State of Origin has not been lost on the teenage stars.

Both men embarked on their first NRL preseasons with the Dragons in November of last year and have since enjoyed standout SG Ball Cup campaigns and progressed through the grades.

They, along with fellow Dragon Jacob Halangahu, went into the Blues’ Under 19s Origin camp on Friday afternoon and have done their best to soak everything in over the past few days.

“I'm very grateful,” Pasifiki Tonga said.

“I was pretty happy and didn't think I was going to make it this far… I'm learning heaps from some of the boys. Some are NRL players, so I've learnt a bit from them and asked them how they made it.”

“I was joyous,” Buchanan said.

“It's been a childhood dream of mine to play for the state, so to do it at under-19s level is very special. 'Timmo' (Steelers SG Ball coach and NSW Under-19s assistant coach Shaun Timmins) was actually the one who called me and told me I was in, so that was pretty good... I've learnt a lot over the week. Obviously, there's some very good coaches.”

Buchanan with NSW Under 19s State of Origin head coach Andrew Ryan.
Buchanan with NSW Under 19s State of Origin head coach Andrew Ryan.

Having familiar faces alongside them has helped keep them relaxed throughout the week in camp and gives them added confidence heading into Thursday night’s clash.

“It's good to know that some of the boys are from the same club,” Pasifiki Tonga said.

“Playing rep footy with Jacob and having that chemistry with him already is pretty good. He's actually my roomie now. We're very comfortable with each other.”

“It's really good having some familiarity in there,” Buchanan said.

“Loko and Jacob are two really good dudes and two very talented and hard-working players. It's good that they're in the side. It gives you confidence playing with people that you've played with before and you know what they can do. You feed off that a bit, especially at training.”

Fresh off his first NRL preseason, Pasifiki Tonga played a key role in the Dragons’ drought-breaking SG Ball Cup Grand Final win in April alongside Halangahu.

The former Australian Schoolboys representative has since made the leap up to Jersey Flegg level and is pleased to be inching further up the rugby league ladder.

“They are some things I didn't know were going to happen,” Pasifiki Tonga said.

“Achieving those goals and ticking this box off right here is pretty special to me. I never knew that I would be here right now.”

Pasifiki Tonga showcasing his skills at training.
Pasifiki Tonga showcasing his skills at training.

Buchanan meanwhile scored seven tries in his 10 SG Ball appearances for the Steelers before slotting into the Jersey Flegg side and eventually making his Knock-On Effect NSW Cup debut where he ran for 128 metres and assisted on a try in the side’s 26-10 Round 13 win over the Panthers.

The Gerringong Lions junior credits a simple philosophy for his continued rise through the ranks.

“My focus has just been on training hard with the first-grade boys and helping them out,” Buchanan said.

“I've just been pushing myself and seeing how far that can take me, I guess. That's where I've channelled my energy this season. It was obviously a big step up but was also really good and really enjoyable. I learnt so much over that time period.”

As enjoyable as camp life has been for the duo, Pasifiki Tonga and Buchanan are both itching to trot out onto the Leichhardt Oval turf on Thursday night and do a job for their state.

“Origin footy is a different ballgame. I know it's going to be very physical and fast,” Pasifiki Tonga said.

“I just want bring energy for the boys when we start the game and be physical and aggressive with them. Knowing that they're going to be physical as well, so just trying to match it and stay there for the boys… I’ve got my family and missus coming. It's going to be good to see them on the sideline. It'll probably get my nerves away a bit.”

“I shed many tears because I was born in 2006 and that was the start of the Queensland dynasty,” Buchanan laughed.

“Obviously, that 2014 series win was probably my favourite moment in footy ever just because we finally won. Now, to kind of represent that at our age group is pretty special… I think it'll be quite fast. Junior footy is a fast-paced game, so it'll be very fast and very physical. I expect the first 10 minutes to be quite a battle. I'm really looking forward to it.”

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

Major Partner

Apparel Partners

Icon Partners

View All Partners