Hull FC recruit Mahe Fonua, who arrived back in the UK last week, has admitted that he would be keen to regain his international place for the Tongan team, especially now that the Tongan coach Kristian Woolf is coaching in Super League for St Helens.
Woolf coached the Tongans to victory against both Great Britain and Australia this autumn, to the point where they are now one of the top four seeds for the World Cup that will be played in England in 2021.
Fonua, 26, who has signed a three-year contract with Hull, has played five times for Tonga, including in the 2017 World Cup. But he missed their games in October and November after having suffered a foot injury with his former NRL club Wests Tigers.
“It was a really proud time for Tongans, and I was really proud of the boys for beating Great Britain and Australia,” said Fonua.
“I do want to get back to my best and put my hand up for the next Test. Big credit should go to Kristian Woolf for what he has done for the team and for the country. I’m not sure he gets enough credit for what he does for them.”
And Fonua admits that he will be well placed to impress Woolf, now that he will eventually face St Helens when Hull host St Helens on February 16, just a week before Saints take on Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge.
“It will be good for those players based over here. When he was based in Australia he probably didn’t have first-hand experience of the Tongan boys playing over here. But now he’ll be able to see players like Ben Murdoch-Masila, Konrad Hurrell and some of the boys on the fringes of the side far more regularly. I will get the chance to impress him when we play St Helens to show him what I’ve still got and what I can offer to Tonga.
“But my main focus this season is staying on the paddock and staying fit, and if my performances win me a Test for Tonga then I would be very happy. If I can give Kristian a few headaches when it comes to choosing the Tongan team, then I would be happy with that.”
Fonua admits, however, that when he left Hull at the end of the 2017 season he wouldn’t have imagined returning to the KCOM Stadium two years later.
“When I left I thought my career was over, but I’m glad to have the opportunity to come back,” he said.
“I’m happy to be finally here. I signed in late June, but there were a couple of visa issues had to be looked after.
“I’m here to create some new memories – hopefully some good ones.
“There were another couple of clubs showing interest in me, but I have some chemistry with this club and my daughter was born here. I do hold this club in high regard, as well as the supporters.
“Me and my wife have two small kids and moving over to the UK with no immediate support group is pretty tough.
“That was the initial reason we moved back to the NRL from the Super League because we had our first daughter, who was born in Hull.
“Radders and I have kept in touch over the two years I’ve been back in the NRL.
“I got injured and it had me out for the rest of the season with a broken foot, which wasn’t an ideal time when I was playing for a new contract.
“With our sport, it’s a very physical game and it’s unfortunate that we get injured. Those were the cards I got dealt at the time.
“Had Radders not kept in touch, I would have had to rush back to then play for another contract or the clubs would have had the upper hand, with me not playing the latter half of the season.
“He and I are good mates and he reached out when I actually needed him the most.
“I’m thankful for him and the club for bringing me back, especially with the squad we’re building because on paper we look like a very sound team.”
© League Express (Mon 9th Dec 2019)