Tonga national rugby league team

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Tonga
Badge of Tonga team
Team information
Nickname Mate Ma'a Tonga
Governing body Tonga National Rugby League
Region Asia-Pacific
Head coach Kristian Woolf
Captain Sika Manu
Most caps Duane Mann (16)
Home stadium Teufaiva Stadium
RLIF ranking 4th
Uniforms
First colours
Team results
First international
 Western Samoa 16–34 Tonga 
(Rarotonga, Cook Islands; 1986)
Biggest win
 Tokelau 0–62 Tonga 
(Auckland, New Zealand; December 2006)
Biggest defeat
 New Zealand 74–0 Tonga 
(Auckland, New Zealand; 27 October 1999)
World Cup
Appearances 5 (first time in 1995)
Best result semi-finals, 2017

The Tonga national rugby league team is a national sporting side, representing Tonga in rugby league football. Rugby league is a popular sport in Tonga. Tonga competes biennually with other several other Pacific Islands nations in the Pacific Cup a competition they have won outright on two occasions, along with finishing as the runner-up on another two. They are the 4th ranked team in the world currently, behind nations that include the "big three" rugby league nations in Australia, New Zealand and England. Tonga to date have competed at five Rugby League World Cups in 1995 and 2000 and were the first team to qualify for the 2008 tournament.

Rugby league was introduced to Tonga in 1986 with the staging of the Pacific Cup in Rarotonga and in 1988 the national side played its first Test match against Western Samoa in Apia. Since then Tonga has played regularly against the Pacific Islands nations and on a less regular basis against nations such England, France and New Zealand.

While Tonga have always been a well performed rugby nation since their début match in 1988 it is more recently where they have made their most serious progress in the international game. They finished second in the inaugural Federation Shield in 2006 where they beat both France and Samoa and since 1988 have qualified for two World Cups where Tonga have however performed unexceptionally and have failed to qualify beyond the group stages at the tournament.

Tonga traditionally play in a predominately red uniform with white sides and socks, they are commonly referred to as the mate ma'a Tonga which when translated means Die for Tonga. The Tongan emblem is a red and blue badge with a rugby ball and the mate ma'a written across it. Tonga internationals are played at a variety of venues throughout the country, though it is Mangweni Stadium in the capital of Nukuʻalofa that is most commonly used.

History[edit]

Rugby league first gained attention in Tonga when the Pacific Cup was partially held in the country during 1986. After this initial exposure to the Tongan people several clubs began to form or switch from rugby union to rugby league and by 1988 the nation had enough depth in their player pool to begin playing national fixtures and entered the 1988 Pacific Cup competition held in Apia, Samoa. During that Pacific Cup the Tongans played in three fixtures winning a sole match while losing the other two, with their first international victory coming against the American Samoa side a match that ended 38–14.

Over the next two years the national side sporadically played international fixtures but it was not until the 1992 Pacific Cup when they again began playing with some regularity. At the 1992 Cup competition the side showed significant improvement on their previous inaugural cup effort with victories over Niue, Cook Islands, Fiji and the New Zealand Maori.[1] This run of victories earned them a place in the final of the 1992 Pacific Cup against the Western Samoan side but they eventually lost a close fought match by four points 18–14. The following tournament two years later saw the Tongan side show further improvement with several comfortable victories again earning them a spot in final of the Pacific Cup this time against the Fijians who had never defeated the Tongans at that time. The final was a tough affair but the Mate Ma'a were again victorious over Fiji 34–11 and claimed their maiden Pacific Cup title.

Official Rankings as of December 2017
Rank Change Team Points
1 Same position  Australia
2  New Zealand
3  England
4 Rise  Tonga
5  Fiji
6 Fall  Samoa
7  Scotland
8  France
9 Rise  Lebanon
10  Papua New Guinea
11 Fall  Ireland
12  Wales
13  Italy
14  United States
15  Jamaica
16  Serbia
17  Canada
18  Malta
19 Same position  Russia
20  Belgium
21  Spain
22  Norway
23  Greece
24 Rise  Philippines
25 Same position  Ukraine
26  Czech Republic
27  Netherlands
28  Germany
29  Hungary
30 Fall  Cook Islands
31  Sweden
32 Rise  Chile
33 Fall  Niue
34  Denmark
35  South Africa
36  Vanuatu
37 Rise  El Salvador
38 Fall  Thailand
39 New entry  Argentina
40  Colombia
41  Japan
42 Fall  Solomon Islands
43 New entry  Brazil
44 Fall  Uruguay
45 New entry  Hong Kong
46 Fall  Bulgaria
47  Latvia
48  Morocco

During 1995 Tonga qualified for their first World Cup and were seeded in the strong group B with both New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. While Tonga failed to win a match at the World Cup they earned respect after they narrowly lost to the New Zealand team by a single point and earnt a draw against Papua New Guinea.

Tonga performing the Sipi Tau

The next four years saw the Tongan side appear in a further Pacific Cup in 1997 and then qualify for the 2000 World Cup with comfortable victories over the Cook Islands, Tokelau and American Samoa. Prior to appearing at the 2000 competition the Tongans arranged a friendly fixture against the New Zealand side that they had come so close to defeating during the previous World Cup but this time faced their heaviest defeat to date going down 74-0 and suffering a large dent in confidence prior to the competition.

After the heavy defeat to New Zealand their next international fixture was during their second World Cup where the Tongans were again placed in another tough group with France, Papua New Guinea again and the South Africans. Tonga faced South Africa in their first match of the tournament where they were comfortable victors in a 66–18 drubbing, however the rest of the tournament was not so kind to the Tongan side with losses to both France and Papua New Guinea meaning the Tongans again failed to make it past the first stage of the tournament.

With a disappointing World Cup behind them the Mate Ma'a regrouped and again enter the Pacific Cup four years later in 2004. The tournament saw the Tongans again qualify for the tournament final with victories over both the Cook Islands and Fiji but the side suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of neighbouring Samoa 51-18. 2006 saw the Tongan side re-enter the Pacific Cup where again they performed strongly qualifying for their second consecutive final where this time they reversed their previous effort with a strong victory over Fiji 22–4 giving them their second Pacific Cup title. 2006 continued to be a busy year of international fixtures for the Tongans which saw them gain qualification into the 2008 World Cup after they finished top of their Pacific group ahead of the Cook Islands, Fiji and Samoa and then defeat the Samoans 18–10 in the qualifying final. They also entered the inaugural Federation Shield competition along with England, France and Samoa and eventually finish second. England to face Tonga in League final to the English in the final 32–14 after they had defeated both France and Samoa.

2013 Pacific Rugby League Test[edit]

In April 2013, Tonga took on Samoa in the '2013 Pacific Rugby League Test' at Penrith Stadium. The International was created as a World Cup warm-up match. Tonga targeted Samoa's weak defence, and it paid off, thrashing the Toa Samoans by 36–4.

2013 Rugby League World Cup campaign[edit]

Tonga automatically qualified for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup after participating in the 2008 tournament. They took on Scotland, Italy and the Cook Islands in the pool stage. In their first match they took on 'the Scots'. It was a tight and intense rugby league battle, but it was the Scots who eventually prevailed, winning 26–24. Tonga then went on and beat 'the Kukis', 22–16, and Italy, 16–0, but it wasn't enough. Scotland finished the group stage unbeaten, sealing their place in the quarter-final and ending Tonga's World Cup campaign in the process.

2015 Pacific Rugby League Test[edit]

In May 2015, Tonga took on Samoa in the 2015 Polynesian Cup at Cbus Super Stadium. The International was part of a triple header which also included the Melanesian Cup, between Papua New Guinea and Fiji, and the Junior Kangaroos against the Junior Kiwis. The game was an absolute thriller with the lead alternating between the teams and the biggest margin throughout the match was only 6 points. However, there was always going to be one winner in the see-saw affair and it was Samoa who upended Mate Ma'a Tonga to win the Polynesian Cup by 18–16.

2017 Rugby League World Cup qualifying[edit]

In October 2015, Tonga took on the Cook Islands in the Asia-Pacific elimination play-off to determine which of the two Asia-Pacific nations qualified for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. After a tight first half, Mate Ma'a Tonga went on win the match scoring 16 points within the last 20 minutes of the game.

2016 Pacific Rugby League Test[edit]

In May 2016, Tonga took on Samoa in the 2016 Polynesian Cup at Pirtek Stadium. The International was part of a triple header which also included the Melanesian Cup, between Papua New Guinea and Fiji, and the Junior Kangaroos against the Junior Kiwis. The traditional pacific rivalry between these two continued as they produced highlights from big hits, to powerful meters, and try-saving tackles when needed. However this year's test-match saw way more errors than last year's and Tonga made most of them and failed to capitalize on their 55% of possession, which therefore resulted in a 12-point defeat in the 2016 Polynesian Cup.

Current squad[edit]

The Tonga national team squad for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.[2]

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Pts Club
Fullback William Hopoate (1992-05-09) 9 May 1992 (age 25) 1 0 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Wing Mahe Fonua (1992-12-24) 24 December 1992 (age 24) 5 12 Hullcolours.svg Wests Tigers
Wing David Fusitu'a (1994-10-16) 16 October 1994 (age 23) 1 0 New Zealand colours.svg New Zealand Warriors
Wing Daniel Tupou (1991-06-17) 17 June 1991 (age 26) 4 4 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters
Wing Manu Vatuvei (1986-03-04) 4 March 1986 (age 31) 1 4 Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils
Centre Konrad Hurrell (1991-08-05) 5 August 1991 (age 26) 4 4 Gold Coast Titans colours.svg Gold Coast Titans
Centre Michael Jennings (1988-04-20) 20 April 1988 (age 29) 3 12 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta Eels
Centre Solomone Kata (1994-12-03) 3 December 1994 (age 23) 4 26 New Zealand colours.svg New Zealand Warriors
Five-eighth Samisoni Langi (1993-06-11) 11 June 1993 (age 24) 7 30 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
Five-eighth Tuimoala Lolohea (1995-01-23) 23 January 1995 (age 22) 2 2 Wests Tigers colours.svg Wests Tigers
Halfback Ata Hingano (1997-03-11) 11 March 1997 (age 20) 1 4 New Zealand colours.svg New Zealand Warriors
Prop Andrew Fifita (1989-06-28) 28 June 1989 (age 28) 1 0 Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Prop Sam Moa (1986-08-14) 14 August 1986 (age 31) 4 0 Catalanscolours.svg Catalans Dragons
Prop Joe Ofahengaue (1995-09-15) 15 September 1995 (age 22) 3 0 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos
Prop Peni Terepo (1991-11-21) 21 November 1991 (age 26) 5 8 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta Eels
Hooker Siliva Havili (1993-02-18) 18 February 1993 (age 24) 2 0 St. George colours.svg St George Illawarra Dragons
Hooker Sione Katoa (1995-01-26) 26 January 1995 (age 22) 2 0 Panthers colours.svg Penrith Panthers
Second-row Sika Manu (captain) (1987-01-22) 22 January 1987 (age 30) 7 12 Hullcolours.svg Hull F.C.
Second-row Manu Ma'u (1988-08-24) 24 August 1988 (age 29) 2 0 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta Eels
Second-row Ben Murdoch-Masila (1991-02-07) 7 February 1991 (age 26) 5 0 Redscolours.svg Warrington Wolves
Second-row Ukuma Ta'ai (1987-01-17) 17 January 1987 (age 30) 8 8 Giantscolours.svg Huddersfield Giants
Lock Tevita Pangai Junior (1996-02-04) 4 February 1996 (age 21) 0 0 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos
Lock Sio Siua Taukeiaho (1992-01-03) 3 January 1992 (age 25) 2 0 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters
Lock Jason Taumalolo (1993-05-31) 31 May 1993 (age 24) 3 4 North Queensland colours.svg North Queensland Cowboys

Notable former players[edit]

Since rugby league has been known to the nation of Tonga officially in 1988 many players of Tongan birth or heritage have gone on to attain notability in representing either Tonga, other nations or appear in major domestic leagues around the world, some of the more notable Tongans have included:

Duane Mann Hooker Parental heritage Former Tonga National Coach & Kiwi Captain

Tonga Player 1986 - 2000

Jim Dymock Lock, Five-eighth Parental heritage Former National Coach
1995 World Cup winner
Willie Mason Prop, Second-row Parental heritage Former Tonga & current Australia international
2000 World Cup
Willie Tonga Centre, Wing Parental heritage former Australia international
Tevita Vaikona Wing Born Nukuʻalofa, Tonga Former Tonga international
2000 World Cup
Brent Kite Prop, Second-row Parental heritage 2013 Tonga captain & former Australia international
2000 World Cup, 2008 World cup runners up
Lesley Vainikolo Wing Born Nukuʻalofa, Tonga Former New Zealand Rugby League
& England Rugby Union International.
Israel Folau Centre, Wing Parental heritage Former Australia international & GWS AFL player
Current NSW Warratahs Rugby union player. 2008 World Cup
Fuifui Moimoi Prop Born Nuku'alofa, Tonga Former New Zealand International, played for Tonga in the 2013 World Cup
Antonio Kaufusi Prop, Second-row Born Montahau, Tonga 2008 World Cup

International results[edit]

The following table underneath shows Tonga's all-time rugby league results record. They have been participating in International fixtures since 1986.

International Results
Country Matches Won Drawn Lost % Won Year/s
Total 80 42 3 36 53% 1986-
 American Samoa 2 2 0 0 100% 1988-1998
Australia Australian Aboriginies 1 0 0 1 0% 1994
 Cook Islands 11 10 0 1 91% 1988-2013
 England 2 0 0 2 0% 2006
 France 2 1 0 1 50% 2000-2006
 Fiji 12 6 1 5 50% 1992-2017
Fiji Presidents XIII 1 1 0 0 100% 1994
 Ireland 1 1 0 0 100% 2008
 Italy 1 1 0 0 100% 2013
 Māori 7 3 0 4 43% 1988-2006
 New Zealand 5 1 0 4 20% 1995-2017
New Zealand New Zealand XIII 1 0 0 1 0% 1997
 Niue 3 3 0 0 100% 1990-1994
 Papua New Guinea 8 0 1 7 0% 1995-2014
 Samoa 20 9 0 11 45% 1986-2017
 Scotland 3 2 0 1 67% 2008-2017
 South Africa 1 1 0 0 100% 2000
 Tokelau 4 4 0 0 100% 1986-2006
 United States 1 1 0 0 100% 2012
Samoa Western Samoa 8 3 0 5 38% 1986-1996

Honours[edit]

1994, 2006

Kit supplier[edit]

Tonga's kit suppliers are Fi-Ta Performance sportswear.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1992 Pacific Cup (New Zealand) International Competitions Website Retrieved on 18 May 2007.
  2. ^ "Tonga unleash World Cup squad". rlwc2017.com. 6 October 2017. 

External links[edit]