Powerhouse forward Jason Taumalolo has dedicated his international future to Tonga.
The former New Zealand international was one of the stars of last year’s World Cup, after leading a plethora of Kiwi stars in switching allegiance to the Mate Ma’a.
And now, Taumalolo has insisted he has no intention of reverting back to playing for the Kiwis at all – saying his future at international level lies with Tonga and nobody else.
“The World Cup last year, I’d never been a part of something like that before, it was a really special experience,” Taumalolo said.
“The following we had and the amount of support we had was overwhelming and it made our journey in the World Cup that much more special.
“To share it with a group of boys who obviously sacrificed a lot to be a part of that group, I find it really hard to describe how proud I am of them all.
“Myself along with a number of other players, have recommitted to Tonga again because we are passionate about our heritage and we also want to help make international rugby league stronger and the best way for us to do that is by making Tonga a competitive team internationally,” he said.
“I hope the governing bodies of the game also follow suit by making sure Tonga and other tier two nations have the opportunity to play regular meaningful games against tier one nations.”
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said Taumalolo’s commitment to country was not just a huge coup for rugby league in the nation, but the international game in general.
“It’s obviously a terrific boost for Tonga Rugby League,” Woolf said.
“Jason is not only a terrific player and terrific person, but he’s also going to develop into a real leader within the Tongan group. We all saw the effect of him making the decision for the World Cup, it certainly gave a lot of confidence to other blokes and that they could do the same thing.
“There will be a flow-on effect with other teams as well and it’s not just about us becoming stronger internationally, I’m sure you are going to see teams like Samoa, Fiji and PNG become really competitive and have more and more guys put their hands up to play for those nations.”