Willie Tonga is a man that has appeared out of the wilderness, and quite unexpectedly too. After a 5 year hiatus from the international arena, Tonga has another chance to represent Australia when they face England this week.
His return was swift and sweet, scoring two tries in the Roos romp over PNG last week, and so his attention will now be focused on an English side brimming with power hitters.
Whilst many are choosing to pick apart England’s strengths and weaknesses based on their performance against NZ, Tonga chooses not to, as he refuses to get caught up in those things.
For most of the Australian team including Tonga, they only really know Sam Burgess and Gareth Ellis who play for Souths and Wests Tigers respectively.
“I’ve got no idea (about England’s likely centre pairing),” Tonga said on Tuesday.
“I don’t watch Super League or NRL as a matter of fact.
“… I watched bits and pieces (of the Kiwis’ 24-10 win over England last weekend) but I try and keep away from footy when I’m not playing it.”
“I speak to the other guys in our team who can sit there and watch every game over the whole weekend which blows me away,” added Tonga.
“I thought everyone was the same as me but maybe I’m a one-off.
“I like to keep it that way and it helps me relax as well.
“When I was young I used to watch every game, but once I started playing the game at a professional level it got a bit too much for me and I realised that when I get away from the game it helps me to clear my head and relax.”
Before the tournament even began, the odds that Tonga would have been selected would have been rather small, but odds these days tend to only provide a basis as to who will make it.
2005, was the last time Tonga played for Australia, but both he and fellow Cowboys team-mate Brent Tate should perhaps consider themselves lucky given that Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Brett Morris, Jamie Lyon and several others were all ruled out due to injury.
Tonga refuses to look too far ahead though as he aims to remain level-headed.
“I’m just fortunate enough to be in this position,” said Tonga.
“It’s been a while and it gives me another opportunity to wear the green and gold, which is probably the highlight of my career.
“As far as cementing a Kangaroos spot after this tour, that’s not something I’m even thinking about.
“I’m just trying to secure a spot for this tournament.
” … I approach the games a lot differently now.
“Back then (in 2004) I was just on a massive rollercoaster ride with the Bulldogs, playing Origin and winning the comp in my first full year of first grade.
“Definitely I’m now a little bit older and a little bit wiser.”