Tonga's Foster repays the faith
The experience of the Tonga Test side ahead of their eventual 28-8 World Cup qualifier win over the Cook Islands was a constant angle of discussion. With 16 of their 17 players having appeared in the NRL, the lone man yet to crack first grade was the one who led them around the park against the Kukis, halfback Daniel Foster.
Yet after an injury-ravaged season Foster was able to repay the faith shown in him by Tongan coach Kristian Woolf after being hampered by a staph infection in his knee for the majority of season in a serious blow to his young career.
"I thought he did a pretty good job. There are a few things he can improve on but the good thing for him is he hasn't played much footy this year," Woolf said.
"He's only played four or five games of NSW Cup through injury and when I say he's had a poor year I say it not through lack of effort rather him hurting his knee.
"With a good year of footy under his belt, and having been around international footy for a couple years only two years out of 20s, he's only going to get better. He'll get better for Tonga and we'll get better with him."
Biding his time on the sideline waiting for the all-clear to return to the Panthers' NSW Cup team for a fair stretch of the year, Western Suburbs Rosellas junior Foster's sixth Test for Tonga was a fair consolation for what has been the season from the hell for the 22-year-old.
Moving past all this, Foster produced multiple crucial passes to set up Tongan tries in their 20-point win over the Cook Islands – his amazing pass to teammate Solomone Kata in the lead-up to their first try of the match the definite highlight.
"It definitely helps my job and makes it a hell of a lot easier with all the boys having NRL experience. With all these boys in the team and with me being in such an important position, it definitely gives me confidence to do a job for the team," Foster told NRL.com.
"It gives me great confidence that the coach picked me. With all the good players we have, I'm very honoured to pull on this jersey and represent my country.
"It means so much, but more importantly it means a lot to my family too. I'm representing my mum's side, I'm only half Tongan but to do it for her and her family I just want to make her proud."
Having spent the past three seasons at the Panthers after being let go by the Knights in 2012, Foster revealed he's signed on to play for Melbourne Storm's feeder club Easts Tigers in the Intrust Super Cup for 2016.
"It's an exciting new chapter in my life being able to move to the Sunshine State so I'll see how I go," he said.
"I move up next week so it's a massive change. The thing that helps me though is the missus's family lives up there so it's a second home for me already."