“When I play for New Zealand I play for my country of birth. But when I play for Tonga, I play for my heritage and my family.” (Tongan captain, Sika Manu.)
Tonga was introduced to rugby league through the 1986 Pacific Cup in the Cook Islands. They won their first Pacific Cup in 1994.
Since 1995, Tonga has attended every World Cup. In 1995, they finished second in their group, losing by just a point to New Zealand and drawing with Papua New Guinea. They beat the Cooks and Italy at the 2013 Cup, but missed qualifying for the quarter-finals by just two points after going down 26-24 to Scotland.
The team are commonly referred to as Mate Ma’a Tonga, which means, Die for Tonga. “When I play for New Zealand I play for my country of birth,” says 2017 captain, Sika Manu. “But when I play for Tonga, I play for my heritage and my family.”
Tongan Legend: Manu Vatuvei
Manu Vatuvei is one of the most successful Tongan rugby league players in history. Here’s a few of his records:
- Most tries in Kiwi history.
- First player in rugby league history to score 10+ tries in ten straight seasons.
- International Winger of the Year and World Champion in 2008.
- Voted the NRL’s Favourite Son in 2014.
- NRL All Stars (2010, 2012, 2015).
Manu achieved a lifelong dream in 2017 when he played for Tonga in the Pacific Test against Fiji.