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Opinion

Is this the best Tongan rugby league team of all time?

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Roar Guru
9th March, 2022
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In this series, I’ll name what I think are the greatest teams of all time from some of our Pacific rim neighbours. Today, the focus is on Tonga, and the only criteria for selection is that the selected player must have appeared in at least one Test for the Mate Ma’a.

Appearances for Tonga are in brackets.

1. Will Hopoate (9)

A solid performer who has played all of his Tests for Tonga in the No.1 jersey and has had a ten-year career at the top with over 180 games, and won a premiership with Manly in 2011.

2. Daniel Tupou (12)

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A top-flight winger with unmatched aerial skills who has played over 200 first grade games, won three premierships, and scored 117 tries along the way.

3. Michael Jennings (10)

Tops the test try-scoring list for Tonga with eight tries and was one of the best centres in the game in his day, played nearly 300 first grade games and crossed for 154 tries. He also represented both Australia and NSW and won a premiership in 2013.

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4. Konrad Hurrell (9)

A huge backline weapon who delights in running straight over the opposition. Represented Tonga in both the 2013 and 2017 World Cups and won a Challenge Cup with Leeds.

5. Manu Vatuvei (2)

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A powerhouse winger who scored 157 tries in 234 first grade games in his 15-year career. He also represented NZ.

6. Feliti Mateo (13)

Combined strong running and subtle ball skills in his 13-year career in the top grade and captained Tonga on several occasions.

7. Tuimoala Lolohea (10)

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A very versatile player who could fill in with ease anywhere in the backline. He has played 132 first grade games to date in his career.

8. Sia Taukeiaho (c) (9)

One of the best forwards in the game over the last few years and a big reason behind the Roosters’ success. Now entering his ninth season in the top grade and has won two premierships.

Siosiua Taukeiaho

Sio Siua Taukeiaho (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

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9. Duane Mann (5)

A top-flight hooker who has captained both Tonga and NZ and played nearly 390 first grade games in his 11-year career in the top grade.

10. Brent Kite (6)

Highly-rated front rower who captained Tonga on four occasions for three victories. Played 313 first grade games, won two premierships with Manly, represented both NSW and Australia, and won the Clive Churchill Medal in 2008.

11. Richard Fa’aoso (14)

A very tough forward who holds the Test appearances record for Tonga and played 186 top-level games across seven different clubs in his 12-year career. He won a premiership with Melbourne in 2012.

12. Anthony Tupou (1)

A powerful and skilful forward who played 265 first grade games and was a regular selection for Australia.

13. Jason Taumalalo (11)

One of the most destructive ball runners the game has seen and always guaranteed to get his side rolling forward. Has played over 200 first grade games to date, has also represented the Kiwis, and won a premiership with the Cowboys in 2015.

14. Siliva Havili (11)

A big, powerful dummy half who plays his best football in the red and white jersey. Represented Tonga in both the 2013 and 2017 World Cups and has, so far, played over 100 first grade games in the NRL.

15. Andrew Fifita (8)

An absolute giant, and when he’s in the mood, it’s almost impossible for any defence to contain him. Has also played for NSW and Australia, and notched up 225 first grade games so far.

16. Fuifui Moimoi (9)

A human projectile and crowd favourite and just the player you want in your side to intimidate the opposition with his mere presence. Played 313 first grade games and also represented NZ.

17. Willie Mason (3)

A devastating ball runner and fearsome competitor who loves dominating the opposition. Represented Tonga in the 2000 World Cup, played for both Australia and NSW with distinction, and played over 300 first grade games in his career, winning a premiership and the Clive Churchill Medal in 2008.

This team has a big and mobile pack of forwards and a bench that will add plenty of impact when they get their chance. Both the spine and outside backs could best be described as steady rather than spectacular, but both wingers know the way to the line.

So, what do you think? Are there any players unlucky not to make the team?

How would this team go?

Next, Toa Samoa.

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