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Full circle for Tonga's Brent Kite

Andrew Bryan NRL.com Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 11:00 AM

Brent Kite had not even played first grade when he made his debut in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup for Tonga.

At the time he was just looking for an opportunity to crack into the big time and he saw playing for Tonga as a great way to get experience and get his name out there.

Ironically, it was his name that got him a call-up to the Tongan team in the first place.

"I was a young kid looking to come to the UK and Tonga was my ticket," Kite explained to NRL.com.

"It was a funny situation where my last name is an English name, Kite, [and there] happens to be a Tonga name spelled the same pronounced 'Kit-eh', so I'm sure I was only picked up for that reason, it was purely coincidental.

"I was lucky enough to get picked, I was just stoked to be in the team and very proud to represent the country. It is very special to play for my mum's country of birth."

Kite's first-grade debut in the NRL at St George Illawarra Dragons didn't come until two years later in 2002.

Since his debut for Tonga in the World Cup, a 66-18 victory over South Africa in Paris, Kite has played in four grand finals and won two – including a Clive Churchill Medal-winning performance for Manly in 2008. He has played 10 games for New South Wales and 14 Tests for Australia, and is closing in on the NRL's exclusive 300-game club.

It is some list of accolades. And it all started when he was given the chance with an emerging nation playing international rugby league halfway around the world as an unknown youngster.

It is why this World Cup means so much. The wheel has turned full circle and now Kite is the eldest statesmen guiding the next bunch of Tongan players through.

"Tonga has a fair representation of players in the NRL and a massive number of players in the under-20s," Kite points out.

"If you go back to Tonga the infrastructure around league isn't great, it is more of a rugby union-supporting country. We'd like to turn that around. I think the quality of players we have coming through in the highest levels of the game should be reflected back in Tonga.

"This World Cup can only serve as a platform to do that. We know how important it is to have a great showing for the profile of rugby league in Tonga.

"Back in Tonga they don't export anything anymore, they don't even export coconuts. Their best export is people. They have great people with big hearts and they certainly have talented sportspeople."

Asked by NRL.com what he was looking forward to most about the World Cup, the answer was simple.

"Lifting the profile of the Tongan team. We have a job to do here and that is to win games. The more games we can win the more we can help Tongan rugby league."

Tonga v Scotland: October 29 (October 30 Australian time)

Tonga v Cook Islands: November 5 (November 6 Australian time)

Tonga v Italy: November 10 (November 11 Australian time)