Samoa second-rower Frank Pritchard believes teammate Reni Maitua "gets to redeem himself" when he makes his first appearance of the 2014 Four Nations this Sunday.
Maitua was forced to miss the tournament-opening loss to England after he copped a team-imposed one-game suspension for his role in a nightclub brawl in Brisbane late last month.
The 32-year-old was then overlooked for last week's last-gasp defeat to New Zealand but was selected by coach Matt Parish on Tuesday for their must-win match against Australia in Wollongong.
Maitua trained strongly with the team as they prepared in their camp in Kiama on Wednesday.
"Reni gets to redeem himself, wear the jersey and show some pride in it," Pritchard told NRL.com.
"It's been tough for him to sit out the last two weeks, but he's actually been really good in camp. He put that other stuff in the box and concentrated on what he needed to do for the team."
While Maitua will take his place on the bench this weekend, his long-term future remains in doubt after it was reported that his club side, Canterbury-Bankstown, are considering sacking him from the final year of his contract.
But Pritchard, who spent much of the year alongside Maitua in the club's casualty ward, vouched for his clubmate's positive influence in the locker room.
In fact, one of the Bulldogs' breakout stars this year – grand final hooker Moses Mbye – was understood to be dealing with homesickness before Maitua helped him through it.
"He's got a big role there at the Bulldogs in terms of his leadership. He's got Moses Mbye under his wing, and a lot of the young boys look up to him both there and here with Samoa. So he must be doing something right," Pritchard said.
Five-eighth Ben Roberts said Maitua was pivotal to the side appearing in the Four Nations after helping them defeat Fiji earlier this year. The 32-16 victory at Penrith meant Samoa clinched the fourth and final spot in the tournament.
"He obviously had a bit of a bad start to the season because of that groin injury, so that put him on the back foot to start with," Roberts said.
"Even the back end of the year, he missed out on grand final, then coming to camp he hasn't played the first two games. He's looking forward to this week, he's been burning to play. He's dying to get out there.
"He played a big role in getting us here, playing that mid-season Test against Fiji. Just the way he thinks and the way he looks at footy, all the young kids watch that and take it on board because he's been there and done that."
Despite losing their first two games of the campaign, RLIF's seventh-ranked nation can still make the final should they upset the Kangaroos and make up a 10-point differential on England, who meet New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday.
Story first appeared on NRL.com