Addin Fonua-Blake says he felt envious watching on from the sidelines while playing for the Kiwis as Tonga pulled off an upset in last year's World Cup and indicated it played a major role in his return to the Pacific nation.
Fonua-Blake is back in red after playing one Test match for New Zealand last year, an experience he doesn't regret but one that later provided him with clarity of where his heart was placed in the future.
He is the fifth player in Kristian Woolf's Tongan squad to have had ties to New Zealand Rugby League.
"I really enjoyed my time with the Kiwis but it just didn't feel like home," Fonua-Blake told NRL.com.
"I knew straight away after the World Cup finished, I was jealous of all the support they had and I envied all the boys.
"I was a bit down not being a part of it but I had to experience that Test with the Kiwis to figure that out for myself. When I come back here it felt like I never left. Home is where the heart is."
The 22-year-old has bought into Tonga's drive towards being recognised as a tier one nation – a goal that can only be achieved with further success against higher-ranked countries.
Led by high-profile stars Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo, Fonua-Blake insists the belief is finally there in the Tonga side to achieve it.
"They definitely drive it, everyone wants it but didn't know how without them. Those two coming back have made it an easy decision for everyone else on and off the field," Fonua-Blake said.
"Now we're one step closer to achieving that goal. By getting ourselves back here and doing our bit hopefully we can get to that stage or set it up for the next generation."
Fonua-Blake is set to line up on Saturday against Manly teammate and Samoan winger Jorge Taufua, a player who represented Tonga in the 2013 World Cup.
Taufua qualifies for Samoa under his mother's heritage.
"He's always said he wanted to represent both sides of his family at some point so I support his decision," Fonua-Blake said.
"It's tough to go against the first country you played for, even if it is Samoa and Tonga.
"But what he's doing is good for his family and I know his mum will feel really proud that he's been able to do that.
"It's going to be weird coming up against him but once we cross the line we've got a job to do."