Sports

NSW State of Origin stars face big decision after being named for Tonga in NRL representative round

NSW Blues stars Daniel Tupou and Kotoni Staggs face a very big decision after the pair were officially named in Mate Ma’a Tonga’s extended squad for next weekend’s test against New Zealand.

Under international eligibility rules, a player can play both Origin and for a country like Tonga – but the games are only a day apart, so Tupou and Staggs can only pick one.

It places the duo in an unwinnable position.

Honour their heritage and family, or honour their state of birth?  

Daniel Tupou (left) consoles Kotoni Staggs (right) during State of Origin game one on June 8

Daniel Tupou (left) consoles Kotoni Staggs (right) during State of Origin game one on June 8

Tongan players celebrate after a historic victory over the Kangaroos in 2019

Tongan players celebrate after a historic victory over the Kangaroos in 2019

It’s a decision that must take into account the fact that after a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami, Tonga needs the best possible men playing to give the tiny island nation a valuable injection of happiness and pride.

But the NSW Blues also need to win Game 2 in order to keep their 2022 Origin dreams alive.

Fortunately, the coaches of both teams have been extremely understanding of the predicament Staggs and Tupou find themselves in.

NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler will name his State of Origin team this Sunday

NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler will name his State of Origin team this Sunday

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has selected a pair of Blues hopefuls in his extended squad

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has selected a pair of Blues hopefuls in his extended squad

NSW coach Brad Fittler and Tonga coach Kristian Woolf have refused to exchange in a public war over eligibility, with the latter saying the pair had been very collaborative throughout the situation.

‘I spoke to Freddy, and the last thing either of us wanted was for them to be left out of one squad and then not named in the other,’ Woolf told the Sydney Morning Herald about selecting the pair.   

‘Nobody wants to see these two watching footy next weekend. You want to see the best players playing. I’m happy for them to have a foot in both camps … we’ll meet again on Friday, and will obviously need an answer either way by Sunday.’

Staggs has made two appearances for Tonga, and has both Indigenous and Tongan heritage

Staggs has made two appearances for Tonga, and has both Indigenous and Tongan heritage

Daniel Tupou makes a break playing for Tonga in 2018 against Samoa

Daniel Tupou makes a break playing for Tonga in 2018 against Samoa

Woolf is of the belief ‘Origin shouldn’t interfere with (a player’s) ability to play international football’ – a sentiment likely everyone bar the ARL agrees with.

Staggs has made two appearances for Mate Ma’a, and has been selected at five-eighth, while winger Tupou has appeared regularly since 2013, earning 14 caps.

Tupou makes a run in Tonga's 2018 Invitational game against Samoa

Tupou makes a run in Tonga’s 2018 Invitational game against Samoa

The huge pay discrepancy (Tongan players earn $2000 each, while NSW players earn $15,000 per game) would likely not even enter either player’s head when making the decision, with Woolf saying he just wanted the pair to do what was best for them, and their families. 

‘We just want them to make a decision that’s right for them and their families. If that’s Tonga, then great, if it’s NSW, we understand the reasons why as well,’ he said.

‘We know we can’t compete financially, but the pride in representing Tonga – and the pride they have when they come together – it’s a big reason why these boys want to play for Tonga.’ 

Jason Taumalolo (back centre) will captain Mate Ma'a Tonga again next weekend

Jason Taumalolo (back centre) will captain Mate Ma’a Tonga again next weekend

Andrew Fifita shows just how much playing for Mate Ma'a means to him

Andrew Fifita shows just how much playing for Mate Ma’a means to him

Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita headline the squad, with NRL stars Haumole Olakau’atu, Keaon Koloamatangi, Sitili Tupouniua, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Tevita Pangai Jnr also high-profile inclusions.

It is highly unlikely at this stage either Tupou or Staggs will be dropped from Fittler’s team, despite Tupou facing pressure from Josh Addo-Carr and Staggs recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in Game 1.

So, the decision to play with either Mate Ma’a or NSW may rest entirely on the shoulders of the pair. 

Tonga squad

1. Tolotau Koula (Sea Eagles) 2. Daniel Tupou (Roosters) 3. Siosifa Talakai (Sharks) 4. Mosese Suli (Dragons) 5. Sione Katoa (Sharks) 6. Kotoni Staggs (Broncos) 7. Talatau Amone (Dragons) 8. Siosiua Taukieaho (Roosters) 9. Siliva Havili (Rabbitohs) 10. Addin Fonua-Blake (Warriors) 11. Sitili Tupouniua (Roosters) 12. Keaon Koloamatangi (Rabbitohs) 13. Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys) 14. Soni Luke (Panthers) 15. Haumole Olakau’atu (Sea Eagles) 16. Tevita Pangai Junior (Bulldogs) 17. Tevita Tatola (Rabbitohs) 18. Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans) 19. Will Penisini (Eels) 20. Isaiya Katoa (Panthers) 21. Andrew Fifita (Sharks) 22. Joe Ofahengaue (Wests Tigers) 23. Starford To’a (Wests Tigers) 24. Christian Tuipulotu (Sea Eagles) 25. Eliesa Katoa (Warriors)


Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button