Rugby League: Jason Taumalolo confirms commitment to Tonga

Taumalolo was a star at last year's World Cup.
Taumalolo was a star at last year's World Cup. Photo credit: Photosport

Blockbusting forward Jason Taumalolo has resworn his test allegiance with Tonga.

Taumalolo made an 11th-hour defection from New Zealand to the Pacific Island nation before last year's World Cup, where he led them to an historic win over the Kiwis, en route to the semi-finals.

On Wednesday, the North Queensland Cowboy told the team's website that he was fully committed long-term to Mate Ma'a, which he hopes to establish as an international powerhouse.

"The World Cup last year, I'd never been a part of something like that before," Taumalolo said. "It was a really special experience. 

"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.

"The best way for us to do that is by making Tonga a competitive team.

"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 called Taumalolo's decision a coup for both Tongan rugby league and the international game on the whole, paricularly across the island nations.

"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," said Woolf.

"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."

Tonga will take on traditional rivals Samoa in the second game of a Pacific Test doubleheader on June 23 at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in Sydney.