Taumalolo has Tongan national competition named after him
Jason Taumalolo's immediate – and powerful – impact upon rugby league in Tonga has resulted in the Pacific Island nation renaming its national competition after the North Queensland Cowboys superstar.
NRL.com can reveal ''The Jason Taumalolo Cup'' will kick off on February 17 and the man himself is thrilled.
Taumalolo's World Cup story was the most intriguing of the tournament, with his last-minute decision to play for Tonga rather than for New Zealand attracting both praise and criticism.
The sight of Taumalolo leading Tonga's Sipi Tau ahead of their pool match against the Kiwi's will remain one of the lasting images of the tournament.
That, combined with his outstanding play, has resulted in the decision.
''Tonga's dominated by rugby union, pretty much every time, so for us boys to put rugby league on the map in Tonga, now everyone is starting to play rugby league,'' Taumalolo said.
''It's growing, so hopefully in a few years' time there will be a bit of a grassroots, and boys coming through the ranks in [the] NRL system.''
Taumalolo also revealed that he was contacted by members of the Kiwi World Cup staff after his pre-tournament announcement, and the messages were positive.
''When I said I was going to go back and play for Tonga I had a few of the Kiwi staff message me and tell me how proud they are of me for deciding to go and represent my heritage and fully supporting my decision,'' he said.
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''For them to support me like that it gave me confidence going back, but a lot of the media and that, didn’t really approve of the decisions.''
Tonga's Rugby League Manager Tavake Fungapo, who is behind the decision to rename the competition, thanked the World Cup squad for their positive contributions.
''Just overall the World Cup itself, just so grateful that Jason and Andrew and those guys were the guys who really made it happen,'' he said.
''We struggled to get clubs to participate in our [domestic] competition and last year we had 14 clubs and this year we’ve got over 24 clubs.''
Tongan Rugby League didn't stop at Taumalolo when it came to renaming its competitions.
Manu Vatuvei, Solomone Kata, Konrad Hurrell and Tuimoala Lolohea will all have age-restricted leagues named after them.
In further news, Andrew Fifita has agreed to support a Nines Competition named in his honour which will be played on his home island of Eua.
The NRL understands players plan to visit during their respective bye rounds to help with workshops and clinics to ensure the game continues to grow.