Penrith’s Campbell-Gillard and the man he replaced in Mal Meninga’s squad, Andrew Fifita, have in common the fact they are eligible for the green and gold and a Pacific nation.
But that’s where the similarities end. While Fifita made rugby league history by choosing Tonga over the World Cup holders, Gillard advised Fiji he did not want to play in the tournament but happily accepted the Australia call-up.
“I reckon they might try and kill me,” he told Fairfax Media when asked what sort of reaction he expected should he be used against the host nation at Suva’s ANZ Stadium on Saturday. “I honestly don’t know … it’s going to be different, it’s going to be interesting.
“I think it’s a great call, Australia taking some games over there and playing some trials with Fiji and PNG. It’s special and I can’t wait.”
With 40-minute periods to be played against Samoa and Fiji, it is uncertain if forward Gillard will face his former Bati teammates. The Panther has one Fiji cap in 2014 and says he is overwhelmed to have been called into the Australian squad for Fifita. “I had sweaty palms for the hour I had to drive [into camp],” he said.
Asked to explain the difference between his own attitude to dual eligibility and that of the man he replaced, he said: “Obviously he’s played for Australia and he knows what it’s like to be here. He probably wants to experience something else from his heritage.
“World Cups don’t come around very often and he probably had that mindset of … I don’t know, family does play a big part in it, and obviously he wants to respect his culture there.
“I’ve played for Fiji. I know how my beliefs and culture works. Again, it’s a no-brainer for me.
“I’ve been in that [Fiji] environment and know how it works. The blokes in that team, it’s really special. It’s something different. Give someone else a chance…
“I cancelled playing for Fiji as soon as the Australian team was announced. I had holidays planned and booked and ready to go.
“When I got the phone call here, I grabbed it with both hands. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, play for Australia. I’m pinching myself still, that it’s come so quickly.”