It is a timely boost for the Parramatta Eels, given the long-term injury to young centre Jacob Loko – but experienced recruit Willie Tonga, has declared himself fit to play for the Eels Round 1 clash against the Brisbane Broncos, at Parramatta Stadium.
Suffering from a pectoral injury that he suffered during the opening warm-up in the Four Nations tournament, there were fears that Tonga would be out for a while – but he has quelled such fears, and may even make a start in the Eels final trial game against Penrith, at CUA Stadium on Friday night.
Despite the injury however, Tonga chose to stay on Â the tour and support his team-mates, rather than head home.
”I took it pretty hard,” Tonga said.
”I didn’t know if I would get that opportunity again. It could have been the last time that I am with the Australian team.
”Tim Sheens gave me the opportunity to come home but I thought it is not very often you get those opportunities to be in a team like the Australian team on a tour. And because it was Darren Lockyer’s last tour I wanted to be a part of that.
”But it was really tough. You don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines at the best of times, let alone overseas in a different environment when you are not able to play and watching the boys having a successful tour like that. I learnt a lot from that about trying to handle things better when things don’t go my way.”
There was a bit of a setback last week however, when scans showed that Tonga had not fully recovered from his injury, hence he did not play against the Tigers – but Tonga is confident that he will be fit for Round 1.
”I was on track for next week but I have had scans and they have found a few bulging discs in my back so I am not sure â€¦ but definitely round one and we will see how we go this week at training,” he said. ”I really want to play that game, against the Broncos and up against Hodgo.”