10 June 2019
Jason Taumalolo can’t wait to put on the Tonga jersey again to face the Kiwis in June, with the former Dally M winner opening up about what the clash at Mt Smart Stadium will mean to him and his family.
The highly anticipated clash on June 22 is the first between the two Pacific rivals since Tonga upset the Kiwis 28-22 during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
That historic result, the first time a tier-two nation had beaten a tier-one nation, came after Taumalolo became the most high-profile Kiwis player to defect to Tonga prior to the tournament.
“For myself, being an Auckland-born Tongan, I was born in Auckland and grew up being raised as a Tongan, for my family to see me now not forgetting where I’m from and getting to represent my roots, that’s what it’s all about for me,” he said.
“Whenever I get the chance to represent my family I will 100 per cent do it with all my heart.”
Taumalolo believed Tonga had the talent to beat New Zealand, Australia, and England but wouldn’t go as far as saying Mate Ma‘a Tonga now ranked with the tier-one nations.
“I don’t know if we’ve proven that yet (being a tier-one nation), obviously playing New Zealand will a pretty good statement so for us to at least be a tier-one we have to be consistent in winning those big games.”
“We have players that are capable of winning big games against New Zealand and Australia and England, now it’s all about putting it together now.”
“The biggest part is having players obviously stay with Tonga, there’s obviously Origin and New Zealand as the biggest temptation but I’m not too worried about that.”
“For us, it’s all about playing together and getting more playing time together and eventually go on from there.”
“It’s probably the best camp (the Tongan camp) I’ve been a part of and the boys always look forward to getting into camp and obviously playing alongside each other and that’s what makes it pretty special and to obviously carry on that group from 2017 World Cup is something that everyone wants.”
Taumalolo still could not quite believe the way the fans had supported Mate Ma’a Tonga in the last two years.
“We obviously didn’t think we’d get that big of a following that World Cup and for that New Zealand game (in 2017), the way they turned out and supported was nothing we’ve ever had before.”
“For us it’s about that feeling of belonging, obviously we all come from different families, but we all have that Tongan blood in us I guess
For us to represent a proud country and culture, what we’re about, that’s what makes it special.
“Whenever they’re cheering or singing their hymns and that that definitely gives the boys a lift so hopefully, they do the same for the Kiwis game.”