Addin Fonua-Blake has had an incredible 2018 season.
Sea Eagles Media Manager Wayne Cousins caught up with the powerful Manly prop for a Q & A interview to talk about his impact this season and what it means to pull on the Tongan jersey against Australia in Auckland this Saturday night.
Wayne: You played every game for Manly in 2018 and now have 60 NRL games under your belt. You must be proud of what you have achieved already?
Addin: I was thinking about that the other day. Not too long ago, I was in and out of the Intrust NSW Cup but this season, I started in every game for Manly. I never take playing in the NRL for granted. It is a hard job and there is always someone else coming through who is faster or stronger, so you need to keep on your feet. I've set myself a little goal to just keep getting better with every year.
Wayne: Addin, the passion from the Tongan people is incredible. How special is it to see all those red flags waving on game day?
Addin: When you are standing there singing the national anthem, you look into the 'red sea' so to speak, and just feel so many emotions. I feel joy and proudness. For the players, a lot of our families moved to Australia and New Zealand to give their children better opportunities in life. That's what I think about. To be able to repay my parents by playing for our 'little country' is such an overwhelming feeling.
Wayne: How extra special was it to wear the Tongan jersey again in May after representing New Zealand in the Rugby League World Cup last year?
Addin: It was a big thing for my family. I made the decision to play for the Kiwis in the World Cup after previously playing for Tonga. When the World Cup was over, I had a really good hard think about my representative career and I just felt more emotionally attached to the red jersey of Tonga. And that's not saying anything disrespectful to the Kiwis. I learnt plenty of good things off them, and I still have a lot of respect for the players and the staff there. However, you just can't change the way you feel. I just felt my heart was more with the Tongan jersey. Mum was born in New Zealand but my parents are Tongan.
Wayne: You are a pretty laid back character, so how are you preparing for this sold-out Test Match, and all the hype surrounding it?
Addin: There is just a special bond in our camp. It doesn't matter how many games you have played for Tonga, be it one or 20, everyone just enjoys each other's company. We have a lot of fun and have that laid-back mentality. But when it comes to training and then game day, we all know when to flick the switch on and to get serious. The build-up has been huge and everyone really wants to see this game. The success the Tongan boys had at the World Cup was huge. They made history by beating New Zealand for the first time ever, and they came really close to beating England, and making the final. Ever since then, all anyone has wished for was Tonga to play Australia, and now it's happening. I can't wait.
Wayne: How much inspiration do you take from Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo – players who have declared their allegiances to Tonga after previously playing for Australia and New Zealand?
Addin: When you play against quality players like Andrew and Jason, you want to try and outplay them. But when they are your Test team-mates, they just take you to another level. They are both such good leaders within the team and are very well respected. Andrew was in the middle of all the discussions with the RLPA and he was a proud spokesperson for Tonga. It was the same with Jason. He has a lot of respect in the game and has pushed for this match to be played.
Wayne: What about the prospect of playing some of your Manly team-mates in Australian players Daly Cherry-Evans, and Jake and Tom Trbojevic?
Addin: It will be my first time playing against Daly. I haven't played against Jake and Tom since our younger days. I'm definitely looking forward to it. Knowing Jake, he will just tackle anything that moves while Tommy is one of the best ball carriers in the game. Daly is one of the most skilful halves in the game. I couldn't be happier for him. It will be a good test to play against one another. I say there will be a little bit of light-hearted banter. Those boys are my 'brothers', but when we cross the line, we all have a job to do for our countries. They won't take it easy on me, and I won't be taking it easy on them.