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'You get goosebumps': Manly teenager Tolutau Koula picks Tonga after being inspired in '17

By AAP
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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The belief that the Tongan revolution sparked by Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita five years ago would fall away now seems misguided.

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Just ask Manly teenager Tolutau Koula.

On the eve of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, Taumalolo and Fifita changed the international game by opting to switch their respective allegiances from New Zealand and Australia to Tonga.

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It led to Tonga reaching the semi-finals of that tournament after beating the Kiwis in the group stage and they have since defeated Great Britain and the Kangaroos.

Those wins have inspired a new generation of Tongan players to follow suit, including Koula.

“What Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita have done is inspire young lads to follow their path,” Koula, who will make his debut at fullback against the Kiwis in Auckland on Saturday, said.

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“He (Taumalolo) started that movement … I grew up as a pretty passionate Blues fan (but) I watched every game of that World Cup (in 2017).

“I’ve always watched the Pacific Test, so to be a part of that will be pretty special. You get goosebumps just being in the stands.”

To look at the strength in depth Tonga now have, Moeaki Fotuaika and Joe Ofahengaue played State of Origin for Queensland last year, but can’t even crack the bench.

Fifita is now reduced to a role as a depth player, while Manly’s Haumole Olakau’atu shunned a NSW call-up to play for Mate Ma’a – a team moniker which literally means ‘Die for Tonga’.

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Koula may be a stop-gap for this Test ahead of the Rugby League World Cup later this year, but does have a long family history of representing Tonga.

His mother was a hurdler in the Atalanta and Sydney Olympics, while his father competed as a 100m sprinter at three straight Games from 1992 onwards.

“I’m really proud to continue that tradition,” he said.

“(Tonga Coach) Kristian Woolf called me a few weeks ago to tell me to be mindful of getting in the squad.

“It was always in the back of my mind but to see it in paper was crazy.

“I didn’t tell anyone, even my parents found out through the media.”

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