Rugby League: Felise Kaufusi allegiance lies firmly with Australia despite Tongan heritage

Kangaroos second-rower Felise Kaufusi could have found himself on the other side in this weekend's blockbuster test between Tonga and Australia.

The 26-year-old was born in Auckland, grew up in Australia and was raised by two very passionate Tongan parents.

Kaufusi played three tests for Mate Ma'a between 2015-2017, but outstanding NRL form for the Melbourne Storm in 2017, earned him a spot in the Kangaroos Rugby League World Cup squad.

The 189c powerhouse played all three games for Queensland in the 2018 State of Origin series and was an automatic selection for Mal Meninga when the Kangaroo squad was announced last month.

Despite those three tests for Tonga, Kaufusi always saw the Kangaroos jersey as his ultimate goal.

"It's always been a dream of mine," Kaufusi said.

"Playing for Australia is the pinnacle. It's bigger than playing State of Origin for me. To put that green and gold on and represent your country, that's as big as it gets."

Kaufusi admitted that  being an All Black was on his childhood wishlist, but when his family moved to Queensland when he was seven, it didn't take long for his passion for rugby league, his state and his new found country to materialise.

"It was all about rugby union for me growing up," Kaufusi said.

"It was all about the All Blacks but moving to a rugby league state like Queensland I really developed that passion and pride for Queensland and Australia. I really felt a sense of belonging so it wasn't too hard to make that decision.

"It's awesome being here in Auckland. I was born here, so it's quite funny in a way being back here playing for Australia. I'm enjoying it and looking forward to the weekend."

As for his family allegiance? Kaufusi acknowledged that it is swinging in favour of the colour red this week, but he is confident he will have the backing of his parents  well at least a foot in both camps anyway.

"My parents were both born and bred in Tonga.

"The first three of my siblings were born in Tonga before the family moved to New Zealand.

"I think this weekend my dad is going to wear half green and half red. They are both really supportive and would back me whichever way I had gone.

"I have a lot of cousins still based here and I'm pretty sure they will be going for the other side but I will have mum and dad so it should be all right.

"Caught up with the cousins last week and all we talked about was the Tongan game - there was a bit of banter there, but I have a chance to shut them up on the weekend."

Kaufusi and the Kangaroos face a stiff challenge in bouncing back from an upset loss to the Kiwis last weekend.

The world champions were heavily favoured to repel New Zealand but found themselves on the back foot for long periods, with the Kiwis forward pack dominating their Australian counterparts.

Kaufusi asserted that they were their own worst enemy in many ways, given a double-figure error count and poor discipline.

Tonga will bring an even more daunting pack with two of the best forwards in the NRL in Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita.

Kaufusi said the Australian fully comprehend the challenge that awaits them at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday.

"It's going to be a big challenge. Tonga have some big and powerful boys up front so we are going to have to aim up if we want to do the job on them.

"Off the World Cup, they have done a really good job. I really respect them for that and hopefully, they can build on that culture for the future.

"They are really passionate about where they are from, and there is something really special that they have in their camp but so does the Australian side.

"Our camaraderie and mateship that we have together I think we can take a lot out of."


Join us at 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of Mate Ma'a Tonga vs Australian Kangaroos league at Mt Smart Stadium.