Jason Taumalolo says that players are no less Tongan for having represented other nations in the past.
The North Queensland Cowboys star debuted internationally for Tonga in the 2013 World Cup before switching to New Zealand, where he was born.
But he was then among a host of players to change allegiances ahead of the 2017 tournament, in which Tonga came close to reaching the final.
A similar rush by players to represent their heritage nation has seen Samoa in particular strengthen their squad significantly for this World Cup.
Over the years, Taumalolo has received a lot of grief for his decision to stop playing for Tonga in favour of New Zealand before switching allegiances again, but he insists playing for the Kiwis doesn’t make him less of a Tongan.
“When you see players now deciding to play for their heritage nation, it makes me happy and it makes others happy as well,” he said.
“Their families are going to remember it. They are going to grow old and tell their kids that they represented where their grandparent were from.
“For those players who went back and chose their heritage, it means they not only get to represent their families but they also get to represent themselves.
“Even though I was born in New Zealand, I count myself as a Tongan. Not because of where I was born but because of how I was raised. I was raised the Tongan way, in the way we talk at home, things like that.
“So I am a proud Tongan and to see these boys go back and represent their heritage nation makes me very proud.”
Taumalolo, who is suspended for Tonga’s first two World Cup matches including their opener against Papua New Guinea in St Helens tomorrow (Tuesday) night, has also revealed it is on his bucket list to play in Super League before his career is over.
However, such a move will not be soon for the 29-year-old, who is contracted with the Cowboys until 2027 after he signed a staggering $10 million ten-year deal back in 2017.
“If I hadn’t signed a lifetime deal with the Cows (Cowboys) maybe I would already have been here,” said Taumalolo.
“I would love to come and do what I love on this side of the world.
“I have no idea when that would be. I would probably have to lose a left arm for the Cowboys to get rid of me, but we’ll see how we go.”
Tonga squad: Daniel Tupou, Siosifa Talakai, Will Penisini, Sione Katoa, Talatau Amone, Tui Lolohea, Addin Fonua-Blake, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Felise Kaufusi, Keaon Koloamatangi, Soni Luke, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tevita Tatola, Moeaki Fotuaika, David Fifita, Mosese Suli, Tolutau Koula, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Isaiya Katoa.
PNG squad: Nene Macdonald, Justin Olam, Xavier Coates, Kyle Laybutt, Lachlan Lam, Wellington Albert, Edwin Ipape, Sylvester Namo, Nixon Putt, Rhyse Martin, Jacob Alice, Dan Russell, MacKenzie Lei, Emmanuel Waine, Kevin Appo, Rodrick Tai, Sherwin Tanabi, Watson Boas.
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