Crichton reveals why he knocked back Kangaroos for Samoa – and their ultimate goal after World Cup breakthrough

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Stephen Crichton’s October is already the stuff dreams are made of, but the Penrith star insists he can top of it off with a historic Samoan victory in the Pacific Championships.

The 23-year-old strike centre played a key role in the Panthers’ stunning 26-24 win over Brisbane in the NRL grand final, and got engaged to his partner Leone days later.

Crichton and several of his Panthers teammates will line up for Samoa against Australia in the opening clash of the Pacific Championships in Townsville on Saturday in a World Cup final rematch.

Australia won 30-10 in last year’s final and have not lost to Samoa in four Tests over the past 23 years.

The pain of last year’s World Cup loss, on the first occasion Samoa had made it that far in the tournament, burns Crichton.

“It does (hurt) but we will see what happens this time around. We can give the Pacific Championships a real crack with the team we have right now,” Crichton told AAP.

“There is a lot of talent in our squad so it will come down to how we prepare and suit up for the games.

“What we did last year to make history was still very special.

“Samoa is my country. It is where I was born and bred. It is one dot on the map that no-one really knows so it was cool to see all the Samoa fans out and about after what we achieved at the World Cup.”

Crichton said it was “definitely the long-term goal” to win the World Cup in 2026 with Samoa but first on his agenda was continuing his rapport with Panthers centre partner Izack Tago for Samoa against Australia.

Having signed to join Canterbury next year, Crichton is hoping for three Tests to savour with Tago. Samoa plays New Zealand in a fortnight in the Pacific Cup round robin and will hope to qualify for the final in Hamilton on November 4.

Penrith celebrate a third consecutive NRL premiership in the change rooms. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“It is heaps special to play with Izack. It will be the last time we do for a while,” Crichton said.

“There is a strong bond between us. I am definitely going to miss him.” 

Samoa coach Ben Gardiner, also an assistant to Ivan Cleary at the Panthers, is just happy to have Crichton in his team.

“Stephen is elite and one of the best players in the world at the moment,” Gardiner told AAP.

“Everyone sees what happens on the field but it is the incredible work he does in the background … and he does it not because he has to but because he wants to. 

“He is constantly pushing himself against himself and will continue to get better, which is scary.”

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