BRONCOS fullback Josh Hoffman admits his team feels bitter towards controversial rookie Kangaroo James Tamou but says the New Zealand-born prop will be "just another Australian" when the Anzac Test kicks off.
Tamou's declaration that playing for Australia would be the pinnacle of his sport made waves on both sides of the Tasman, especially after the North Queensland Cowboy had previously pledged his allegiance to the silver fern jumper.
New Zealand high-performance manager Tony Kemp labelled Tamou's decision to play for the green and gold "a joke" while Kiwis captain Benji Marshall yesterday accused Tamou of being lured not by a State of Origin jersey, but the payment that comes with it.
Hoffman chose to strike a more conciliatory tone at the team's training camp outside Auckland, perhaps not surprising considering the Test debutant was born and raised in Queensland and, like Tamou, could have represented either country. "There is a bit of bitterness in the camp. But we aren't going to go out there and concentrate on James as they have other great players," Hoffman said.
"I think the decision that he made is 100% his decision, and no one else can criticise what he's done. Once he's out on the field come game day, we'll treat him as just another Australian, another opponent."
The Kiwis can console themselves in winning the battle for Hoffman.
The talented Brisbane custodian grew up in Mackay but said he had long dreamed of pulling on the black jersey and representing the country of his father's birth.
"As a little kid growing up, I always wanted to get out on the field and do the haka," he said.
"I think that's where it all started."
Hoffman also said he could empathise with Tamou about the lure of Origin.
Friday night: New Zealand v Australia at Eden Park, Auckland, 6.15pm (AEST)