Queensland Reds star Jordan Petaia is unlikely to play against the NSW Waratahs on Saturday night at the Sydney Cricket Ground following the devastating passing of his father.
Petaia took to social media to pay tribute to his father, Seiuli Salatielu Petaia, who tragically suffered an apparent heart attack on Wednesday night.
The Reds named Petaia to return to the starting side on the the right-wing on Thursday, after making his return via the bench last Saturday against the Brumbies.
But it's unlikely that Petaia will board the plane to Sydney for the Reds' fly-in, fly-out State of Origin match. He will have until lunchtime to decide whether he plays.
Petaia's father was a strong supporter of his son and was well known within Australian rugby circles. Matt To'omua's father, Ieru, was also very close friends with Petaia's dad and the families have always held a strong bond.
Speaking on Fox Sports, following the Rebels' clinical 30-12 point win over the Brumbies on Friday night, To'omua sent out his well-wishes to the Petaias: "I just want to tell you all that I love you guys and I'm thinking of you guys. God bless and we'll see you soon."
Seiuli Salatielu Petaia travelled to Japan to watch Jordan make his debut against Uruguay in last year's World Cup, where the 19-year-old scored on debut.
His death is yet another cruel blow to the Reds' playing group, where Petaia's teammate Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and former teammate Izack Rodda both lost their fathers in recent years too.
Last year, Rodda delivered one of his finest performances of his career after taking the field against the Highlanders in Dunedin two days following his father's death.
The Reds have yet to name a replacement for Petaia, but if Petaia is, indeed, ruled out it's thought that Jack Hardy could be brought into the matchday 23.
Adding to the sensitivity of Petaia's decision to play is the restrictions of COVID-19.
Seiuli Salatielu Petaia. These last few days I’ve been trying to get away from it. I can’t seem to keep the tears away. I ain’t ever felt pain like this. I hate feeling like this. I still can’t believe what’s happened. Your heart and mind were so pure. So selfless and caring yet so tough. You helped give us kids every opportunity at life. I wish you could’ve seen what I had planned for our lives. I’m going to miss that infectious smile and laugh everyday. Gods gained another real one. I’ll love and miss you forever Dad 💞
Given Queensland has closed its borders to NSW, the Reds will have to return to a clean bubble and, should Petaia play, he may not be permitted to attend his father's funeral on his return to Brisbane.
On Friday night Petaia penned an emotional tribute to his father on Instagram.
"Seiuli Salatielu Petaia. These last few days I've been trying to get away from it. I can't seem to keep the tears away. I ain't ever felt pain like this. I hate feeling like this. I still can't believe what's happened. Your heart and mind were so pure. So selfless and caring yet so tough. You helped give us kids every opportunity at life. I wish you could've seen what I had planned for our lives. I'm going to miss that infectious smile and laugh everyday. Gods gained another real one. I'll love and miss you forever Dad."