No regrets for Tonga converts
A different decision last month would likely have seen Andrew Fifita preparing to play in a Rugby League World Cup final this Saturday instead of heading home, but the Tongan powerhouse said he wouldn't change a thing.
One of a host of players to make an 11th-hour switch to represent Tonga, having originally been selected in Mal Meninga's final Kangaroos squad only days earlier, Fifita said being part of Tonga's historic run at the tournament left him with no room for regret.
"No chance," Fifita said following his side's 20-18 semi-final exit at the hands of England in Auckland.
"I'm proud of my decision, my parents, my grandfather, my family, the boys in there, that's who I stand by.
"There's no regrets. I am proud of how far I have gone... at the end of the day I am happy.
"My heart was saying 'I think it's time to go to Tonga'.
"We have rocked this world… our Tongan fans are proud of us, and I am not just talking in Auckland and in Sydney, I am talking Australia, America, mate I have got family in Alaska going off."
While Fifita remained uncommitted on his international and State of Origin future, Sio Siua Taukeiaho appeared let slip details of a pact between himself and fellow defectors Jason Taumalolo, Manu Ma'u and Fifita, to stick with Tonga long term.
"A few of the boys like Jase, Fifita and Manu Ma'u, all of them have said they'll stay with Tonga and I'm willing to do the same," Taukeiaho said.
"I think it's just all because we made it so far… I think we want to keep the same team together for the next World Cup or whatever games we have coming up.
"I think I'll stick with Tonga for my whole career now.
"You'll probably see me in a red and white jersey for my whole time that I play footy."
Tonga had come within a whisker of pulling off arguably the greatest comeback in Rugby League World Cup history on Saturday night, in front of a capacity Mount Smart Stadium crowd of 30,003.
Trailing 20-0 with eight minutes to go, Tonga ran in tries to Tevita Pangai Junior, Siliva Havili, and Tuimoala Lolohea in the space of five minutes to claw back within two points, and had a chance to win the match when Fifita went over on the final play of the game, only to be called back for a knock on.
Taumalolo reflected on the watershed tournament, which saw Tonga become the first tier-two side to beat a top-three nation when they defeated New Zealand 28-22 in pool play, while the island nation advanced to the play-offs at the World Cup for the first time in their history.
"Obviously disappointing, but mostly proud, the way the boys carried themselves, I am proud of what they have done throughout this tournament," Taumalolo said.
"[The semi-final] will be up there with my [NRL] grand final memory from 2015, it's a shame with how the result went, but just proud.
"We managed to bring our country and our people together… that's what it's about, it's things like that which hit me real deep."