Back again with the weekly editorials, this time it's the Tongan side that will be put together, again, using the criteria I used for the Samoan side.
In case you've forgotten what said criteria is, here it is: All players selected for these teams (at least the national teams), must have played in more games for an Island nation than a main nation like Australia or New Zealand or the same amount for a respective Island nation. Alternatively, they can be eligible for an Island nation, but are yet to represent that nation at the international level. All players selected must have played in or are currently playing in the NRL, NYC, SuperLeague, other English competitions, NSW Cup. QLD Cup or a local competition at some stage, but can currently be playing in a local Australian competition.
So, I won't keep you in suspense for much longer – here's the the Tongan 17 using the criteria:
1. Toshio Laiseni – If you're a Sharks fan and you cast your eye back to 2006, you might just remember Laiseni (even if he did only play in one first-grade game). In fact, you might even remember the game more so, given that Laiseni made a break that led to the Sharks only try in that game. A live-wire fullback or winger who has a good turn of speed, Laiseni is a toiler and a proud Tongan.
2. Etu Uaisele – No matter the club Etu is at, he becomes a fan favourite. Even a cult figure, if you will. Enjoying stints at both the Parramatta Eels and Penrith Panthers, now at Wyong Roos in the NSW Cup, Uaisele epitomises the team player. He'll give it his all every game but is always willing to do what is best for the team. He's the sort of player teams need given his infectious personality, his talented play and his love and passion for the game. You probably all know that he's headed for the Featherstone Rovers next year.
3. Daniel Tupou – Tupou was a player that came through the lower grades at the Parramatta Eels but was never as consistent as the club wanted him to be, so he moved on. Fast forward a few years and he is at the Sydney Roosters and excelling. A big, mobile winger who can play centre or fullback, Tupou is hard to bring down given his height and stature and is a key component of a talented Roosters side this year and at just 21, it looks like he'll be a part of the Roosters side for a good few years to come.
4. Siuatonga Likiliki – Ask any Knights fan and they'll probably tell you that Likiliki is a player they want to see in first-grade, though the opportunities just haven't been there. Quite a versatile player and able to cover both the centre and second-row positions, Likiliki is a player that Knights fans not only enjoy watching, but a player that is immensely talented and constantly puts in good performances. He has played in a few NRL games and is perhaps unlucky to have not played in more – especially seeing as he was named at centre last year in the NSW Cup Team of the Year.
5. Glenn Fisiiahi – Nicknamed 'The Fish', Fisiiahi is a popular player at the Warriors and a player that has countless ability in the NRL. Playing in 12 first-grade games so far and likely to play in more as his career goes on, he was a player that the New Zealand Warriors saw great potential win, evidenced by their plan to re-sign him for four years back in 2011 after just one first-grade game. Coming through the Warriors ranks, Fisiiahi will be a player to keep an eye on in the years to come.
6. Feleti Mateo – A player often criticised for inconsistency, Feleti Mateo is the sort of player commonly referred to as a game-breaker. Able to produce something out of nothing when required with an offload, a jinking run or a killer pass, he has the tools to be an elite player in the NRL. Having just re-signed with the New Zealand Warriors for a few more years, fans will be hoping that he can be part of a resurgent Warriors side that improves over the next couple of seasons.
7. Samisoni Langi – A talented player at the Roosters and excelling at NYC level for the club, Langi is a crafty and skillful ball-player, also able to fill in at back-row or lock given his sturdy defence. Recently made his Tongan debut and played a great game. Langi is a player to watch for the future with his smart skills, acute league awareness and versatility, a valuable asset to the Roosters NYC side and future side
s he plays for in the future at all levels of rugby league.
8. Antonio Kaufusi – A big, experienced and barnstorming prop forward, Kaufusi is a player that has been to a few teams and played well for each and every one of them. Nicknamed Foose or Fusi, Kaufusi is a no-nonsense type forward who puts in the hard yards and has been involved with rugby league for some time now, having made his NRL debut 10 years ago. Now at the London Broncos in the Super League, he has become an immediate success for them, winning Player of the Month in February last year.
9. Siliva Havili – A talented hooker through the Warriors ranks, Havili is seen as the future of the New Zealand Warriors side and will eventually get his first-grade crack. Quick off the mark, a solid defender and tough for a man of his size, Havili has excelled both at NYC level and NSW Cup level, so it's merely a matter of time before he has a chance to excel at the top level. He also recently made his international debut for Tonga, another stepping stone in his so far impressive career.
10. Sam Moa – Just a few years ago, it looked like Sam Moa wasn't going to return to the NRL but thank goodness he did, as the former Sharks prop now at the Roosters has enjoyed a stellar return to the NRL. With a stint at Hull FC in between his two NRL stints, Moa, before his injury, was one of the form props for the Roosters, helping them to carve the required platform to win. When he returns, no doubt he will return to his ominous best.
11. Taniela Lasalo – Currently injured, Lasalo has long been a player that has been in and out of the Parramatta Eels side and although he cops his fair share of criticism, on his day, he can be a handy player in your side. Able to play centre, prop, back-row and lock, Lasalo will work hard to get back into firstly the Wentworthville side and possibly first-grade, as the off-contract forward looks to stay at the Eels.
12. Ephalahame Lauaki – Warriors fans will remember Lauaki well, especially as a hard-working, powerful back-rower, who was often brutal in defence and provided great physicality in both attack and defence. Agile for a big man with quick feet and possessing a ripper offload, Lauaki has been in great form in England for both Hull FC and Wigan. Pledging allegiance to his native Tonga, Lauaki is a valuable player to have in any Tongan side for many reasons.
13. Mickey Paea – Not a household name by any means, Paea is a toiler and is currently enjoying success in England at Hull KR, following previous NRL stints with the Sydney Roosters, St George Illawarra Dragons and Canterbury Bulldogs. Also an agile forward, Paea brings grunt and force to a rugby league pack and may make a return to the NRL one day.
14. Siosaia Vave – Another player who plays with power and force is Siosaia Vave, currently at the Melbourne Storm, his first-grade appearances are more regular now under coach Craig Bellamy. Formerly at the Cronulla Sharks, Vave is a quick, agile forward, who possesses solid skills for a big man. Offers great depth and versatility for the Storm when they need it.
15. David Hala – Hala epitomises the word powerful. Why, you ask? Well, Hala, who plays for the Brisbane Broncos, has broken (a while back now) the record for bench pressing at the club, amassing 187kg worth of weight on it. Such power is evidenced by his upper body strength and power-running style, one that works well for him. Injuries have limited him to just 22 games in 4 years but when he's fit and firing, he's a damaging ball-runner.
16. Lopini Paea – Related to Mickey Paea, Lopini is another talented forward, one that Roosters fans will remember fondly, as he played in 95 games over 7 years for the club. Currently enjoying success at Catalans, his primary position is prop. Paea runs hard with strength and power and packs a punch in defence. Proving to be a key part of the Catalans side.
17. Atelea Vea – Another journeyman player, Vea is a handy player in that he can come into a side when needed either due to injuries or rep duty and do the job that is required of him. He isn't the biggest forward nor the hardest hitter, but is rather an honest toiler who possesses a good footy brain, footy smarts, a great work ethic and a desire to perform for his team-mates on the field. Currently at the Dragons, when called upon, Vea's performed reasonably well.