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Special times for three proud Tonga players

For Tolu Koula, Christian Tuipulotu and Haumole Olakau’atu, Saturday’s Test match in Auckland will be a moment they will forever cherish.

Koula has been named at full-back with Tuipulotu on the wing in the starting team for Mate Ma'a Tonga. Second-rower Olakau’atu has been named on the interchange bench.

All three Sea Eagles players will make their Test debuts together against the New Zealand Kiwis at Mt Smart Stadium where they will go up against Manly team-mate Kieran Foran in his 23rd Test match for New Zealand.

Koula’s selection is another major highlight in a year that keeps getting better and better for the 19-year-old, who made his NRL debut for Manly against Penrith in the opening round of the season.

Blessed with tremendous speed and footwork, Koula was fast tracked into Manly’s NRL squad in 2021 after only completing his HSC in 2020. He has since played 12 first grade games for the Sea Eagles.

Flying....Tolu Koula dives over for first NRL try
Flying....Tolu Koula dives over for first NRL try ©NRL Photos

It will be another proud moment for the Koula family. Tolu’s father, Toluta'u, is a former Tongan sprinter who competed in the men's 100m competition. Mum, Anna, represented Tonga in the hurdles and long jump. Both competed at the Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000) Olympic Games.

“To play for Tonga means so much to me and my family. It’s a dream come true,’’ Koula said.

Tuipulotu’s selection also comes as a fine reward for his superb form for Manly after making the most of his opportunities since coming into the starting team in March.

Since then, the powerful 21-year-old winger has scored 11 tries in seven games for Manly at an average of 133 running metres and 28 tackle breaks.

Like Koula and Tuipulotu, pulling on the Tonga jersey will be another special moment for Olakau'atu.

The barnstorming back-rower has scored seven tries in 13 games for Manly this season and is averaging 108 metres per game.

“To play for Tonga, it means everything,’’ the 23-year-old said.

“But I know how much it will mean for my parents just because of the struggles they have been through, flying from Tonga to Australia in 1997 to try and find a better life.”

New Zealand Kiwis vs Mate Ma'a Tonga

Saturday, June 25

3.20pm (AEST), Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Live on Nine/Fox/Kayo

 

 

 

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