Tolu Koula got more than just one shock when learning of his selection in the Tongan team for Saturday’s Test match against New Zealand.
He also discovered he is related to Sea Eagles team-mate and good friend, Christian Tuipulotu.
“Christian’s Grandma and my Dad’s Grandma are sisters. We only just found out,’’ Koula said, who is also related to team-mate Haumole Olakau’atu.
“It was a little freakish to find that out as I have become close with Christian since he arrived at Manly.
“Once our family in New Zealand heard about our selections for Tonga, they informed my family here in Sydney that somehow Christian and I are related.
“It’s funny too because we often travel together to training and when we found out, we were like ‘oh, we are cousins’, and had a laugh.
“I’ve enjoyed having Christian playing outside of me as I know he always has my back and I’ve got his, and that’s on and off the field.”
Unfortunately for Koula, he didn’t get the opportunity to tell his parents of his exciting news about his selection with his Mum hearing it through the media.
Koula, Tuipulotu and Olakau’atu will all make their Test debuts for Tonga against the Kiwis. Koula has been named at full-back, Tuipulotu on the wing, with Olakau'atu coming off the interchange bench.
The selection of Koula comes following a rapid rise to the NRL this year for the 19-year-old who has played 12 games. He was fast tracked into Manly’s NRL top 30 squad last year following his completion of his HSC in 2020.
“When I got home, Mum and Dad gave me a hug and told me how proud they were. They are going to try and come over to Auckland for the game,'' Koula said.
It’s pretty special for the family,Tolu Koula on representing Tonga
It will be another proud moment for the Koula family when Tolu becomes the latest member to represent Tonga at a national level.
Koula’s father, Toluta'u, is a former Tongan sprinter who competed in the men's 100m competition while Mum, Anna, represented Tonga in the hurdles and long jump. Both competed at the Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000) Olympic Games.
The exciting youngster has inherited the family genes with Koula one of the fastest players in the NRL.
“To play for Tonga mean so much to me and my family. It will be a dream come true,’’ Koula said.
“Tonga is not the biggest country but more people are aware now of the strong culture they have and the impact they have made on the rugby league scene.
“It’s going to be even more special to have Christian and Haumole on the field with me.
“I remember watching Tonga beat New Zealand in the World Cup in 2017. There was a just a sea of red everywhere.
“I knew then that I wanted to represent Tonga.”
New Zealand Kiwis vs Mate Ma'a Tonga
Saturday, June 25
3.20pm (AEST), Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Live on Nine/Fox/Kayo