|Full name||Villiami Sione Tonga|
8 August 1983 |
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
|Height||185 cm (6 ft 1 in)|
|Weight||103 kg (16 st 3 lb)|
|2010||Prime Minister's XIII||1||1||0||0||4|
|2011||Indigenous All Stars||1||0||0||0||0|
Willie Tonga (born 8 August 1983 in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory) is an Australian professional rugby league footballer for the Parramatta Eels of the NRL. An Australian international and Queensland State of Origin representative centre, he previously played for the Eels, then the Bulldogs, with whom he won the 2004 NRL Premiership and the North Queensland Cowboys. He re-signed with Parramatta starting with the 2012 season. He has joined French club Catalans Dragons on a two year deal from the 2015 season.
Born in the former Woden Valley Hospital on 8 August 1983, his full name is Viliami Sione Tonga, known as Willie. He was the first child of Tongan immigrant John (Sione) Tonga and Wiradjuri woman, Maria Naden. Esi Tonga, also a Rugby League player, is his younger brother.
Showing a talent at a young age while living in Peak Hill, New South Wales, Tonga soon adopted Rugby League and played for the Cootamundra side while his parents attended the Bimbadeen Bible College. After leaving Cootamundra, Tonga's parents and their five children moved to La Perouse in Sydney, and Tonga played Rugby Union for the Matraville Sports High School First XV. It is claimed he did not enjoy this as much as rugby league. His parents continued to move around working for the Aboriginal Inland Missionaries and the family finally settled in Cherbourg, Queensland, an Aboriginal community in Queensland.
Rugby league career
2002-2003: Move to Parramatta
2004-2008: Move to Canterbury
Making small but sure career moves, his best-known achievements were yet to be acknowledged when he moved on to the Bulldogs in 2004. His career catapulted in that one year, earning State of Origin selection, allowing him to become the 145th player to be chosen for the Queensland side since 1980. Winning the Dally M Centre of the Year award, Tonga played there for the Bulldogs in their 2004 NRL Grand Final victory over cross-city rivals, the Sydney Roosters. Tonga was selected in the Australian team to go and compete in the end of season 2004 Rugby League Tri-Nations tournament. In the final against Great Britain he played at centre and scored two tries in the Kangaroos' 44-4 victory.
As 2004 NRL premiers, the Bulldogs faced Super League IX champions, the Leeds Rhinos in the 2005 World Club Challenge. Tonga played at centre in the Bulldogs' 32-39 loss. He was also picked for the Australian side for the 2005 Tri-Nations series, making his first full year in the NRL a success. On 1 April 2008, it was announced that Tonga had signed a four-year deal with the North Queensland Cowboys, commencing in 2009.
2009-2011: Move to North Queensland
In April 2009, he was named in the preliminary 25 man squad to represent Queensland in the opening State of Origin match for 2009. In June, Willie Tonga played in Game II of the 2009 State of Origin Series to replace Justin Hodges. Tonga was retained for the third match which the Maroons lost.
In 2010 Tonga played all three Origin matches for the Maroons. At the end of the season he also represented Australia again for the first time in five years in the 2010 Four Nations tournament.
After a number of long-term injuries, Tonga announced in 2011 that he would be re-joining the Parramatta Eels. This decision was welcomed by the fans and senior members of the Parramatta team who he had played with as young player.
2012-2013: Return to Parramatta
Tonga's return to the club he debuted with was one of long term injuries, he struggled to get a game, only playing 12 in 2012. In the 2013 preseason, during a trial match, Tonga injured his back and was ruled out indefineidly. In June 2013, Tonga was one of 12 Parramatta players that were told that their futures at the club were uncertain by coach, Ricky Stuart.
Tonga re-signed with Parramatta, until 2015 season.
In late 2013 it was revealed that Tonga's best friend Reni Maitua had been suffering from severe depression. In mid 2013, Maitua suffered a breakdown after a game in Brisbane, and days later attempted suicide. Tonga was awake at 1:00am when he received a call from Maitua's sister, who had received a text message which scared her greatly. Tonga chose to drive to Maitua's unit, and found Maitua attempting to take his own life. Tonga believes that had he even arrived 10 seconds later, Maitua would not have survived. Tonga and Maitua told their story on the NRL Footy Show in June 2014 as an attempt to help remove the stigma around mental illness in league.
- "2009 NRL Player Movements". NRL Live. 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
- "Queensland name preliminary State of Origin squad". Fox Sports. 2009-04-28. Retrieved 2009-04-28.