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Editorial: When passion and pride take precedence and money becomes secondary, anything can happen in RLWC matches

Editorial: When passion and pride take precedence and money becomes secondary, anything can happen in  RLWC matches
November 14
13:42 2017

Where there is passion in sports, money can become secondary.

That’s exactly what has happened in the Vodafone Fijian Bati and the Mate Ma’a Tonga rugby league sides.

Players have chosen to represent their countries despite their small allowance compared to the other tier-one nations in this Rugby League World Cup. Some of them were picked for New Zealand and Australia but they chose to represent their island nation.

With that passion and pride, the Tongans rose above expectations and achieved the impossible. They became giant-killers by scoring an upset victory over 2008 Rugby League World Cup champions New Zealand 28-22  in Hamilton last Saturday.

This clash was dubbed a ‘grudge match’ after Tongan players led by North Queensland Cowboys’ 10-year $10 million signing Jason Taumalolo was joined by Tui Lolohea (Wests Tigers), Solomone Kata (Warriors), Konrad Hurrell (Titans), Manu Vatuvei (Salford), Manu Ma’u (Eels) and David Fusitu’a (Warriors) as they switched their allegiance to represent their home country instead of New Zealand.

These players opted for the $30-a-day per diem (which comes to $3000) instead of the $30,000 pay for donning the New Zealand jersey. This could even go up to $50,000 if they reach and win the World Cup final.

Even Tongan head coach Krisitan Woolf testified of how he was touched when Andrew Fifita called him a few hours before he announced their World Cup team.

Fifita had called Woolf to confirm his availability for Tonga even though he was already named in the Australian team.

The burly prop told Woolf, that his decision was not for fame but it was from the “heart and felt that it was something right”.

Fifita was advised by Woolf to speak directly to Australian coach Mal Meninga about his decision and fortunately Big Mal understood where he was coming from and gave his release.

Even Vodafone Fijian Bati captain Kevin Naiqama has stated that for him money is not an issue.   

“If we weren’t getting help from NRL, we’d only have 30 bucks a day for food. I’ve had to go to the laundromat to do my washing, but at the end of the day we are playing for our people and the love of the game. I will always put my hand up to represent my country and my family,” he said.

But this was best summed up by Taumalolo who for the first time indicated that the reason for his move was to help Tonga and the other Pacific teams establish their mark and be considered as Tier One teams. This, he said, would help open doors for many of the hidden talents in the islands giving them the opportunity to make their mark, earn a decent living and head towards a brighter future.

This is a big sacrifice and we should be grateful that we have such players who are not only there for themselves but for the progress of their country.

So, let’s back our rugby league heroes this weekend as Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Samoa take on the heavyweights in this weekend’s RLWC quarterfinals..

Leone Cabenatabua


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