- Team Name: The Mate Ma'a
- First Appearance: 1995
- RLWC2013 Group: Group
- RLWC2013 Opponents: Italy, Scotland and Ireland
- Tournament best: Two wins (2008)
Ones to Watch: Epalahame Lauaki, Sam Moa and Lopini Paea
Read more about these great players and why they are ones to watch during RLWC2013.
A committed player, Lauaki is a hard-working and powerful second row or prop forward. He is good on his feet and has a great ability to successfully offload which has led him to be feared amongst many in the opposing teams.
In an appearance against Salford in 2010 where he held off four men to touch down, his fierce warrior-like attitude is almost as notable as his wild hair.
Lauaki was named in the Tongan training squad for 2008 Rugby League World Cup and played in three games at the tournament as well as a warm up game against the New Zealand Kiwis.
The Roosters prop forward started his career at NRL side Wests Tigers before signing with the Cronulla-Sutherland sharks in 2008. Having spent three years as a successful player representing Hull FC, Moa was part of what fans called ‘The Tongan Mafia’ as he played alongside fellow Tongan’s Willie Manu and Epalahame Lauaki (now at Wigan.)
Moa has recently made the move back down under to appear for the Sydney Roosters but is looking to continue representing Tonga for RLWC2013. Moa was picked for the Tongan squad in 2008 for Rugby League World Cup and featured in all three games during the tournament.
Nicknamed Bini, the second row forward currently plays for Super Leagues Catalan Dragons. Australian born but of Tongan decen, Paea has represented Tonga on several occasions, his most recent game during the 2007 Junior Kangaroos tour, in which Paea also captained the Tongan side.
In August 2008, Lopini Paea was named in the Tonga training squad for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, and in October 2008 he was named in the final 24-man Tonga squad.
A Bit of History
The South Pacific archipelago of Tonga, known as the ‘Friendly Islands’ after the reception given to Captain James Cook in 1773, took up the sport of Rugby League in 1986.
Within two years a domestic competition had been formed which now boasts seventeen clubs and over 2,000 players across the three main islands of Tongatapu, Vava’u and Ha’apai.
With a helpful proximity to Australia and New Zealand, and an increased Tongan presence in the world’s major domestic competitions, Rugby League in Tonga developed rapidly.
The 1988 Pacific Cup was Tonga's first taste of international Rugby League and in 1992 they actually made the final of the same competition.
In 1995 Tonga took part in the Rugby League World Cup for the first time. Before an enthralled crowd at Warrington’s Wilderspool Stadium, the Tongans came within a whisper of knocking New Zealand out of the tournament, losing by a single point in one of the best games in World Cup history.
Tonga also participated in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup, where they performed poorly in pool games against France and Papua New Guinea and again missed out on a quarter final place.
At the 2008 World Cup, Tonga were favourites to reach the semi-final and started well enough by beating Ireland in their first pool game. The second match, against Samoa, was one of the matches of the tournament, but that was no consolation to the Tongans whose defeat ultimately proved costly.