From Wales to Tonga via Australia: Tyson Frizell tells his incredible international rugby league story

Drew Darbyshire
Tyson Frizell Tonga Alamy

Tyson Frizell in Tonga training - Alamy

NRL star Tyson Frizell will create history this autumn when he represents the third country in his remarkable international rugby league journey.

The 32-year-old, who has made more than 200 appearances in the NRL for Cronulla Sharks, St George Illawarra Dragons and Newcastle Knights, was born in Australia to a Welsh father and Tongan mother.

Frizell made his international debut for Wales back in 2011, representing his father’s side of the family, who hail from Swansea. He then represented his Welsh heritage in the 2013 World Cup.

“It feels like it’s gone pretty quick but it also does feel like it was a long time ago I was over in England playing for Wales,” Frizell told Love Rugby League.

“I think my first game for them was in 2011 and it was against England. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience in terms of the score!”

Tyson Frizell Wales Alamy Tyson Frizell playing for Wales at the 2013 World Cup – Alamy

On how the opportunity to play for Wales came around, Frizell added: “I was 19 at the time. I think at that time Wales had won the  European Cup and qualified for the Four Nations.

“I knew Jeremy Smith who was playing for New Zealand at the time, he used to sort of mentor me and look after me and we used to travel to training together. He knew that my father was Welsh and said to me ‘you should see if you’re eligible to play for Wales’.

“Long story short, there was another guy in our team who was a Welsh international and he got in touch with me and the coach, and I ended up coming over to play at the end of the season.

“My dad moved over to Australia with his parents and brother when he was 10 or 12.”

Helping birth nation Australia win the World Cup

Tyson Frizell Australia Alamy Tyson Frizell in action for Australia in 2019 – Alamy

In 2016, Frizell was called up to play for Australia – the country where he was born and raised.

The New South Wales Origin representative helped the Kangaroos win the World Cup in 2017, earning 14 Australian caps in total.

“It was awesome,” Frizell said of his time with the Kangaroos.

“From a young age when you are starting footy it is probably something you aspire to, to play for the country you where born.

“You never know if that opportunity is ever going to come, I guess it’s always in the back of your mind whether you will get that opportunity.

“But thankfully, I got the opportunity to play for Australia and play many internationals for Australia.”

Tonga’s incredible rise inspired me to pledge my allegiance, says Tyson Frizell

Tyson Frizell Tonga Alamy Tyson Frizell in Tonga training – Alamy

By our reckoning, Frizell will become the first player to represent three countries in rugby league.

Frizell says he was inspired to represent his mother’s side of the family after seeing the likes of Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita commit to Tonga in recent years.

“Getting to a stage where you see some of the Tongan boys pledge their allegiance to a second tier nation and lay the platform for other pacific nations was inspiring to me,” he said.

“It was something I wanted to be a part of, and in the back end of my career I get the opportunity to do it for the first time.

“All my family are pretty proud, they’ve seen me being able to play for the other two countries.

“I guess a lot of Tongans are very passionate about their country so all of my cousins and mum and dad and brothers are pretty excited to see me pull on the red jersey for the first time.”

England host Tonga in the opening game of their three-match test series at The Totally Wicked Stadium on Sunday, October 22.

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