Tongan veterans set to support 2013 squad
Two former Tongan and Leigh players have been reminiscing about the time they played for Tonga in the 1995 Rugby League World Cup.
Tau Liku and Lee Hanson both played for Tonga in the 1995 tournament which took on New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Both were present at the Leigh Sports Village as part of the Wigan borough’s bid for World Cup games, which have been awarded to the Leigh Sports Village and DW Stadium.
The Leigh Sports Village will host Tonga throughout the tournament, and the Tongan side will use the stadium and its facilities as a base camp.
They will then face the Cook Islands at the stadium in a cross group clash between groups C and D in the tournament.
Liku and Hanson will assist the Tongan side when they arrive in Leigh, and will no doubt try to pass on the Tongan spirit which almost caused one of the biggest upsets in international rugby league history.
Both were part of the squad which nearly beat New Zealand at Wilderspool. Tonga led New Zealand at half time, only for the Kiwis to come back and kick a drop goal to break Tongan hearts.
Hanson remembers the tournament well. He said: “We worked hard two months before the first game of the tournament, and everybody in that New Zealand game did their best.
“I set up the first try, and at half time we were winning. Then New Zealand came back and with five second left kicked a drop goal to win the game, it was very disappointing.
“Full credit to the Tongan boys, we had a very good camp throughout the tournament.”
Liku remembers the occasion just as vividly, and has insisted the Tongan side will perform much better after a disappointing 2008 tournament.
Liku said: “No body expected Tonga to win that. They will get a good welcome next year. The team will get better and better.”
Hanson and Liku will support the Tongan side, and Hanson will use his World Cup experience to motivate the current Tongan side.
He said: “Rugby League is a short career, and the world cup will only one once every four years in your life so they’ll do their best.”