Warriors winger David Fusitu’a has followed clubmate Solomone Kata’s lead and committed to Mate Ma’a Tonga instead of New Zealand, citing family inspiration.
Fusitu’a debuted for both nations in 2016 but was part of the contingent of players who controversially defected from the Kiwis to the island nation on the eve of last year’s World Cup.
The athletic flyer went on to score a match-winning second-half hat-trick in Tonga’s stunning 28-22 upset of the Kiwis in Hamilton and was one of the stars of their historic charge to the semi-finals.
Unlike Kata, Fusitu’a was not born in Tonga – the 23-year-old has lived his entire life in Auckland. But Fusitu’a’s desire to honour his forebears proved the overriding factor in deciding to spurn what would have been a near-certain recall to the New Zealand side for their Denver showdown with England later this month.
“When I think back to my parents’ parents, who came over from Tonga and didn’t have a lot but did what they could to give us a chance of a better future, I feel it’s only right to give back,” Fusitu’a told 1 News Now.
“I’ve been given this opportunity to do what I love, to play rugby league, because of all they sacrificed,” he said.
“I believe we’re able to do something special by playing for Tonga,” he said.
“We have the ability to change the future of rugby league in making it more accessible for not only Tongans, but children all over the Pacific.”
Fusitu’a will be one of the first players picked for Mate Ma’a Tonga’s clash with archrivals Toa Samoa in Sydney on June 23, while Kata is vying for a centre spot with the likes of Michael Jennings and former Warriors teammate Konrad Hurrell, who are the incumbents from the World Cup semi.
Meanwhile, Fusitu’a’s decision could open the door for in-form Warriors wing partner Ken Maumalo, who recently told This Warriors Life he would choose a Kiwis debut jersey over representing Samoa if given the opportunity.
North Queensland lock Jason Taumalolo, who led the slew of defections along with Kangaroos prop Andrew Fifita (who has declared his allegiance to Tonga), is yet to announce which country he will make himself available.