Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has been impressed with Cronulla Sharks powerhouse centre Siosifa Talakai ahead of this year’s World Cup.
The 25-year-old has scored five tries in 11 NRL games so far this season as well as making six line breaks and eight offloads.
Talakai was born and raised in Australia but is of Tongan heritage through his parents. He has yet to play for Tonga, but coach Woolf has liked what he has seen of Talakai in 2022.
Woolf told Love Rugby League: “He has been going great. He is a terrific player and is very proud of his Tongan culture and Tongan heritage.
“Like a lot of players, his family moved to Australia from Tonga for better opportunities for their kids and he is certainly thriving on the back of that opportunity he has been given and is making the most of the talent he’s got.
“There’s a lot of players in a similar boat and you’ve only got to look across the competition. Guys like Kotoni Staggs, Moses Suli, Junior Amone, Keaon Koloamatangi – there’s a number of players who are going to add to that Tongan team this year.”
Tonga hoping to build on 2017 World Cup
Tonga haven’t played for almost three years due to the coronavirus pandemic. They picked up historic wins against Australia and Great Britain in 2019.
The Pacific island will be hoping to go one better than they did at the last World Cup, where they fell short to England in the semi-finals.
Woolf has been impressed with a number of Tongan players in Super League this year, too.
He added: “There’s a lot of players who has played for Tonga in the past and they’ve been a really big part of the success we’ve had.
“Will Hopoate, Koni Hurrell and Agnatius Paasi. The way Iggy has played over the last 12 to 18 months put himself right in the frame.
“Tui has been player for us since 2015 and he is playing terrific footy at the moment. He is fit, he looks happy and he is full of confidence. He has been a big part of our success as well so he will be in and around that squad.
“Dave Fusitu’a has had a bit of an unlucky start to his season over here but I know what qualities he’s got and what he can offer. He has been a big part of our success.
“Albert (Vete) hasn’t played for a number of years. His last showing was probably 2015 but if he can have a consistent year, then he can certainly put himself in the frame. There’s a number of players like that.”