Tonga national rugby league team

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Badge of Tonga team
Nickname Mate Ma'a
Governing body Tonga National Rugby League
Region Asia-Pacific
Head coach Kristian Woolf
Captain Sika Manu
Most caps Duane Mann (16)
Home stadium Mangweni Stadium
RLIF ranking 16th
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 4 (first time in 1995)
Best result Group stage, 1995; 2000; 2008; 2013

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, and the national team has become one of the best performed nations in the world. 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 fifteenth-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 two 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.


Rugby league would first gain attention in Tonga when the Pacific Cup would be 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 would enter the 1988 Pacific Cup competition held in Apia, Samoa. During that Pacific Cup the Tongans would play 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 would end 38–14.

Over the next two years the national side would sporadically play international fixtures but it would not be until the 1992 Pacific Cup when they would again begin playing with some regularity. At the 1992 Cup competition the side would show 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 would earn them a place in the final of the 1992 Pacific Cup against the Western Samoan side but they would eventually lose a close fought match by four points 18–14. The following tournament two years later would see 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 2015[2]
Rank Change Team Points
1 Steady  New Zealand 897.00
2  Australia 719.00
3  England 655.00
4  Samoa 280.00
5  France 209.00
6 Increase  Ireland 162.00
7 Decrease  Fiji 147.00
8 Increase  Wales 132.00
9 Decrease  Scotland 121.00
10 Steady  United States 102.00
11 Increase  Serbia 72.00
12 Steady  Italy 65.00
13  Canada 62.00
14 Decrease  Papua New Guinea 60.00
15 Increase  Russia 46.00
16 Decrease  Tonga 40.00
17 Increase  Belgium 40.00
18  Malta 32.00
19 Steady  Germany 28.00
20  Lebanon 27.00
21 Increase  Spain 26.00
22 Decrease  Cook Islands 23.00
23  Ukraine 22.00
24 Steady  Greece 21.00
25 Increase  Denmark 20.00
26 Decrease  Norway 19.00
27 Increase  Jamaica 16.00
28 Decrease  Netherlands 15.00
29 Decrease  Sweden 15.00
30 Steady  Czech Republic 14.00
31 Decrease  South Africa 13.00
32 Steady  Niue 4.00
33  Hungary 2.00
34  Latvia 2.00
35  Morocco 0.00

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.

File:Sipi tau 2008 RLWC.jpg
Tonga performing the Sipi Tau

The next four years would see 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 would this time face 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 would be during their second World Cup where the Tongans would again be placed in another tough group with France, Papua New Guinea again and the South Africans. Tonga would face South Africa in their first match of the tournament where they would be comfortable victors in a 66-18 drubbing, however the rest of the tournament would not be so kind to the Tongan side with loses to both France and Papua New Guinea meaning the Tongans would again fail to make it past the first stage of the tournament.

With a disappointing World Cup behind them the Mate Ma'a would regroup 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 would suffer 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 would reverse their previous effort with a strong victory over Fiji 22-4 giving them their second Pacific Cup title. 2006 would continue to be a busy year of international fixtures for the Tongans which saw them gain qualification into the 2008 World Cup after they would finish 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 would also enter 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

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

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 would the go on and beat 'the Kukis', 22-16, and Italy, 16-0, but it wasn't enough. Scotland would finish 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

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

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 would qualify for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. After a tight first half, Mate Ma'a Tonga would go on win the match scoring 16 points within the last 20 minutes of the game.

2016 Pacific Rugby League Test

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

The Tonga national team squad selected for the 2016 Polynesian Cup test-match.[3] (caps and points apply for after the test-match finished):

  • Mickey Paea was named as the 18th man. He was selected as a replacement player to fill in for any injury, suspension or a late tactical change before the test-match began.
Other Nat. Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Pts Club
New Zealand Wing David Fusitu'a (1994-10-16) 16 October 1994 (age 24) 1 0 New Zealand colours.svg New Zealand Warriors
Australia Wing Vai Toutai (1993-01-28) 28 January 1993 (age 26) 2 0 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta Eels
Australia Wing Michael Oldfield (1990-11-24) 24 November 1990 (age 28) 2 0 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney Rabbitohs
Australia Centre Mosese Pangai (1991-12-18) 18 December 1991 (age 27) 2 4 File:Australian colours.svg Townsville Blackhawks
Tonga Centre Solomone Kata (1994-12-03) 3 December 1994 (age 24) 4 26 New Zealand colours.svg New Zealand Warriors
Australia Stand-off Samisoni Langi (1993-06-11) 11 June 1993 (age 26) 7 30 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney Bears
New Zealand Prop Peni Terepo (1991-11-21) 21 November 1991 (age 27) 5 8 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta Eels
New Zealand Prop Joe Ofahengaue (1995-09-15) 15 September 1995 (age 24) 2 0 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos
Australia Prop David Fifita (1989-06-28) 28 June 1989 (age 30) 3 0 Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla Sharks
New Zealand Prop Felise Kaufusi (1992-05-19) 19 May 1992 (age 27) 2 0 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Storm
New Zealand Prop Patrick Kaufusi (1994-02-18) 18 February 1994 (age 25) 1 0 File:North Queensland colours.svg North Queensland Cowboys
Australia Prop Siosaia Vave (1989-05-20) 20 May 1989 (age 30) 5 0 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
New Zealand Hooker Sione Katoa (1995-01-26) 26 January 1995 (age 24) 1 0 Panthers colours.svg Penrith Panthers
New Zealand Hooker Nafe Seluini (1990-06-21) 21 June 1990 (age 29) 7 4 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Storm
New Zealand Second-row Sika Manu (Captain) (1987-01-22) 22 January 1987 (age 32) 7 12 Hullcolours.svg Hull F.C.
Australia Second-row Feleti Mateo (1984-06-02) 2 June 1984 (age 35) 13 32 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Australia Second-row Tony Williams (1988-12-12) 12 December 1988 (age 30) 4 24 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury Bulldogs

Notable former players

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
Supi Save Wing Born Nukuʻalofa, Tonga Former Tonga & Australia international
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
Michael Jennings Centre, Wing, Fullback Parental heritage Former Tonga & Australia international
2008 World Cup
Brent Kite Prop, Second-row Parental heritage 2013 Tonga captain & former Australia international
2000 World Cup, 2008 World cup runners up
Tony Williams Second-row, Lock, Wing, Centre Parental heritage Former Tonga & current Australia international
2008 World cup
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

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 11 5 1 5 45% 1992-2009
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 4 0 0 4 0% 1995-2009
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 9 1 1 5 19% 1998-2015
 Scotland 2 1 0 1 50% 2008-2013
 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


1994, 2006

Kit supplier

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

See also


  1. 1992 Pacific Cup (New Zealand) International Competitions Website Retrieved on 18 May 2007.
  2. RLIF Rankings.
  3. "Pacific Test teams announced". 1 May 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links