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Taumalolo ranks beating Kangaroos above Cowboys title

Tonga captain Jason Taumalolo rates Saturday night's historic defeat of Australia ahead of his 2015 premiership win with North Queensland, while team-mates declared the island Kingdom was now the best team in the world.

Taumalolo started the Tongan revolution at the 2017 World Cup that led to the island nation becoming the first tier two country to beat the Kangaroos.

"It is right up there with the premiership. I reckon I would probably go one further and be my biggest game and this is the highlight of my career," Taumalolo said.

"I guess having on my resume being the best country in rugby league as a tier two nation, I think this feeling is one I will remember for the rest of my life and tell my grandkids and my kids before that."

After beating Great Britain a week earlier, prop Sio Siua Taukeaiho interrupted an interview with fullback Will Hopoate to tell him: "Say we're No.1 now. We're No.1 for 2019".

Match Highlights: Tonga Invitational v Australia

It's been an incredible rise for the Pacific nation after Taukeaiho, Andrew Fifita, Manu Ma'u and David Fusitu'a turned their backs on the Kiwis and Kangaroos to follow Taumalolo to Tonga on the eve of the 2017 World Cup.

With the likes of Addin Fonua-Blake and Tevita Pangai jnr also making similar decisions, Tonga has gone from strength to strength and have now set their sights on winning the 2021 World Cup in England.

"They should be very confident," Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said. "We have just beaten Great Britain and Australia.

"Obviously they have shown they are capable of it and they are capable of doing it in the future as well. There is going to be a lot more wins for Tongan rugby league, that's for sure.

"The reason it probably feels above a grand final is because you only get to do what these blokes have achieved once, in terms of being the first tier two nation to knock off the best in the world.

"That leaves a real legacy for Tongan rugby league and the bloke beside me [Taumalolo] is right at the forefront of that."

Asked if he was the King of Tonga, Taumalolo said: "The feeling is close to it I guess but the King of Tonga, I can never take that title. I guess it is safe to say the boys feel like they are kings in their own rights, not only the way they carry themselves but the way they performed tonight not only for ourselves but all of Tonga".

Woolf said the win against Australia, which followed Tonga's World Cup defeat of New Zealand and last week's triumph against Great Britain, was a massive boost for the game in the island nation.

‘We’re number one’: Taukeiaho crashes Hopoate press conference

However, the Tests against Great Britain and Australia almost didn't go ahead due to political infighting with the Tonga National Rugby League, whose decision to sack Woolfe sparked a player revolt.

"There were a few days there we were sitting by the phone wondering what was going to happen," Woolf said.

"There were days we started to wonder if things were going to happen. It's like your life is on hold. Sometimes that phone call doesn't come. We need the right governance in Tonga. We've shown what we're capable."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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