Fans are on his back every day, but for Eels centre Willie Tonga, he knows that improvement is needed both in his own game, and for the Eels team – in a season that he has described as ‘brutal’.
With Tonga’s body so far letting him down this year, and with the team performing poorly over the course of the season – Tonga knows that he needs to play better, but says his body has at times, prevented him from doing so.
“It’s the hardest year of my career, by far,” the Parramatta centre said.
“With injuries, and with the results. With injuries, I’ve never gone through a year like this, and with results, I’ve never been in a position like this. But in saying that, we’re all going through it, and we’ve just got to look to each other for confidence, and to get out of this.”
It was the end of the Four Nations last year, when Tonga said he would return to the Eels – but from there, it went downhill, as Tonga injured his pectoral muscle, before an ankle injury flared up, resulting in his missing the start of the year.
“I am frustrated more than anything,” says Tonga.
“The body is coming along, and I am trying to work as hard as I can to be right every week. Under the circumstances, I push hard to get back. I will just keep working at it.”
With the Eels set to face the in-form Bulldogs on Friday night, and with Tonga a former Bulldog himself, he says that he has no ill-effects towards the club or any of its players.
“I do not think there is anyone there, that I played with,” Tonga said.
“It is a different outfit altogether. The players have moved on”.
Tonga knows that the Eels big problem, is that it is only after they are revved up at half-time, before they pile on the points and start to play some footy.
“It is the story of our season,” said Tonga.
“It takes a rev-up at half-time, to get us going. You cannot afford to do that in the NRL. Leading up to the game, it is all positive in the sheds, the boys are good, but if anyone knew what causes it, we would not be in this situation”.