Big name stars Jason Taumalolo, Addin Fonua-Blake and Siosiua Taukieaho have been joined by exciting youngsters Tolotau Koula and Talatau Amone in a strong Mate Ma’a Tonga team for the upcoming Test against New Zealand in Auckland.
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has named a 25-man squad for the June 25 Test at Mount Smart Stadium, which includes NSW State of Origin backs Daniel Tupou and Kotoni Staggs.
Tupou and Staggs, along with Manly Sea Eagles strike second-rower Haumole Olakau’atu, South Sydney forward Keaon Koloamatangi and Cronulla Sharks centre Siosifa Talakai, are in contention for the Blues team to play Queensland in the second Origin match in Perth on Sunday, June 26.
Players born and raised in NSW or Queensland can play both for their state and also Tonga under international eligibility rules.
Woolf said Tonga was looking to provide the best possible squad for the end-of-season World Cup in England later this year and depth of talent available to the Pacific nation is underlined by the fact no Super League have been included.
Koula, who has been named at fullback, made his NRL for Manly this season and is considered one of the fastest players in the game.
The 19-year-old’s father, Toluta’u Koula, is a former Tongan sprinter who competed in the men’s 100m competition and his Mum, Anna, represented Tonga in the hurdles and long jump, both at the Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000) Olympic Games.
Amone, 20, has this season established himself as Ben Hunt’s St George Illawarra Dragons halves partner and is considered one of the club’s future stars.
NSW Origin stars Daniel Tupou and Kotoni Staggs have been named in the Mate Ma’a Tonga team for their upcoming Test! 🇹🇴
— NRL (@NRL) June 15, 2022
“We have named a powerful squad that includes experienced players who have helped Tonga to victories in the past,” Woolf said.
“There is also a sprinkling of new players in the squad who will be important as we move forward in a World Cup year and beyond.
“There are players that can play both State of Origin and for Tonga and a decision on where they play will be made by Sunday when both interstate and international teams are selected for next week’s representative matches.
“What we don’t wish to happen is that players who have this dual eligibility are not picked in one squad and then miss out on being available to play in another other team.
“If as many of our players as possible are playing representative football next week, the stronger our World Cup squad will be.”
Woolf is also unavailable because of his Super League duties with St Helens and Tonga will be coached by caretaker coach Dean Young for this match, with Wayne Bennett joining the camp in an advisory role.
But Woolf said Tonga was keeping a firm eye on the World Cup by naming the very best squad eligible, including players who had played State of Origin this year.
— NZ Rugby League (@NZRL_Kiwis) June 9, 2022
Tolotau Koula (Sea Eagles)
Daniel Tupou (Roosters)
Siosifa Talakai (Sharks)
Mosese Suli (Dragons)
Sione Katoa (Sharks)
Kotoni Staggs (Broncos)
Talatau Amone (Dragons)
Siosiua Taukieaho (Roosters)
Siliva Havili (Rabbitohs)
Addin Fonua-Blake (Warriors)
Sitili Tupouniua (Roosters)
Keaon Koloamatangi (Rabbitohs)
Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys)
Soni Luke (Panthers)
Haumole Olakau’atu (Sea Eagles)
Tevita Pangai jnr (Bulldogs)
Tevita Tatola (Rabbitohs)
Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans)
Will Penisini (Eels)
Isaiya Katoa (Panthers)
Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
Joe Ofahengaue (Wests Tigers)
Starford To’a (Wests Tigers)
Christian Tuipulotu (Sea Eagles)
Eliesa Katoa (Warriors)