Sport in Tonga

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Tonga performing a wardance before their match vs. France at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. France vs Tonga 2011 RWC (5).jpg
Tonga performing a wardance before their match vs. France at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Rugby union is the national sport in Tonga. Sumo has a following, while football, judo, surfing, volleyball, and cricket have gained popularity in recent years. Rugby league and Australian football are also played.

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Rugby union

Rugby union is the national sport,[ citation needed ] and the national team (ʻIkale Tahi, or Sea Eagles) has performed quite well on the international stage. Though Tongans are passionate rugby followers and players, their small population base means that, much like its Pacific Island neighbours, Samoa and Fiji, Tonga has a limited yet talented player pool, and sometimes struggles with the resources and numbers of larger nations. Young talent often emigrates or is poached to countries which offer greater prospects of individual success such as New Zealand, Australia and Europe. Nevertheless, all three countries perform far beyond their population base size.

Tonga has competed in six Rugby World Cups since 1987. The 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups were Tonga's most successful to date: Tonga won two out of four matches in each and was in a running chance for the quarter finals. In the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Tonga won its first two matches, against the USA 25–15, and Samoa 19–15; and came very close to upsetting the eventual winners of the 2007 tournament, the South African Springboks, losing 30–25. A loss to England, 36–20 in their last pool game ended their hopes of making the knockout stages. Nevertheless, by picking up third place in their pool games behind South Africa and England, Tonga earned automatic qualification for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

In Pool A of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Tonga beat both Japan 31–18, and the 5th ranked [1] eventual finalist France 19–14 in the latter pool stages. However, a previous heavy defeat to the All Blacks at the tournament's opener (41–10) and a subsequent tight loss to Canada (25–20) meant that Tonga lost out to France (who also lost to the New Zealand All Blacks) for the quarter finals due to 2 bonus points and a points difference of 46. Tonga's best results prior to 2007 came in 1995, when they beat Ivory Coast 29–11, and 1999 when they beat Italy 28–25 (although with only 14 men they lost heavily to England, 101–10). Tonga emerged victoryless in the 1987 and 2003 Rugby World Cups, and did not qualify for the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

Tonga perform the Ikale Tahi war dance or Sipi Tau (a form of Kailao) before all their matches. Tonga used to compete in the Pacific Tri-Nations against Samoa and Fiji, which has now been replaced by the IRB Pacific Nations Cup, which now also involves Japan, Canada, and the United States. At club level, there are the Datec Cup Provincial Championship and the Pacific Rugby Cup. Rugby union is governed by the Tonga Rugby Football Union, which was also a member of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance, and contributed to the Pacific Islanders rugby union team, before both were disbanded in 2009.

Many players of Tongan descent, e.g., Jonah Lomu, Israel Folau, Viliami "William" ʻOfahengaue, Malakai Fekitoa, Ben Afeaki, Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Sekope Kepu, George Smith, Wycliff Palu, Sitaleki Timani, Salesi Ma'afu, Anthony and Saia Faingaa, Mark Gerrard, Cooper Vuna, Doug Howlett, Toutai Kefu and Tatafu Polota-Nau have played for either the All Blacks or the Wallabies. British and Irish Lion and Welsh international player Taulupe "Toby" Faletau is Tongan born and the son of Tongan international Kuli Faletau. Taulupe's cousins and England international players Billy and Mako Vunipola (who is also a British and Irish Lion), are sons of former Tonga rugby captain Fe'ao Vunipola. Rugby is popular among the nation's schools, and students from schools such as Tonga College and Tupou College are regularly offered scholarships in New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

Rugby league

Rugby league is a popular team sport played in Tonga. There are 10 First Division sides in the Global Insurance Cup, and there are nine in the Second Division. Only Kolomu'a Warriors (One of two Nuku'alofa Clubs) and the Vaini Doves have First and Second Division sides. The First Division sides have been, to a greater extent, regular participants in the competition since the inception of league in 1988. Those sides are Kolomu'a, Vaini, Mu'a Saints, Silapeluua (Ha'ateiho) Crusaders, Lapaha Knights, Ha'akame Broncos, Hihifo Rovers, Havelu Bulldogs, Halaloto Barbarians and Nakolo Raiders. The Second Division consists of a number of clubs that have participated infrequently over a number of years. However, regulars in the Second Division are Fatumu, Ha'ateiho Spartans and Ngalukilo Stormers.

Secondary Schools Competition started in 2007 with five teams in the Under 18s competition and eight teams in the Under 16s. Takuilau High School won the Under 18s competition and Liahona High School won the Under 16s competition.

It is the largest number of teams and players participating in rugby league in Tongan history, with the National Schools Committee starting the Under 12s, Under 14s and Under 15s in 2008.

TNRL estimates that there are roughly 1,500 players playing rugby league in Tonga for 2007.

Tonga are represented internationally by the Tonga national rugby league team, who have competed in three Rugby League World Cups, and also compete in regular Pacific Cup competitions. In the 2013 Rugby League World Cup Tonga Lost to Scotland before beating Cook Islands and Italy. However this was not enough for them to reach the quarter finals. Tonga is currently ranked 4th in the world.

American football

The first Tongan to play in the NFL was running back/kick returner Vai Sikahema (1986-1993). Offensive lineman Spencer Folau, born in Nuku'alofa, was a member of the Super Bowl XXXV champion Baltimore Ravens. Tongan Americans currently playing in the NFL include Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Star Lotulelei of the Buffalo Bills. New York Jets nose tackle Sione Pouha, Minnesota Vikings fullback Naufahu Tahi, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki; offensive guard Deuce Lutui, who was born in the Haʻapai division of the islands, played for the Cincinnati Bengals. Former Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu and his brother, offensive lineman Chris Kemoeatu, who has won the Super Bowl two times, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, are also natives of Tonga. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL draft, Vaitai replaced the injured Pro-bowler Jason Peters in the starting lineup for the remainder of the 2017 season and went on to win the Super Bowl that season.

Boxing

Boxing is a growing sport in Tonga. Boxer Paea Wolfgramm won the silver medal in the Super Heavyweight division (> 91 kg) at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Although he is not the first Pacific Islander to win a medal at an Olympics, he is the first to do so representing a Pacific Island nation. This makes Tonga the first Pacific island nation to win a medal at the Olympic Games, and the only one until the Fiji men's team won gold in rugby sevens at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Luge

Princess Pilolevu Tuita is known as the patron of the Luge Federation of the Kingdom of Tonga. She sponsored Bruno Banani, real name Fuahea Semi, [2] who failed in the Qualification to the 2010 Winter Olympics, [3] but was 41st at 2009–10 Luge World Cup in Calgary. [4]

Australian rules football

Australian rules football was first played in 2003, when the Tonga Australian Football Association was founded. A school competition has been played yearly since then, including a tour to Samoa. A Tongan team competed at the 2004 Australian Football Multicultural Cup.

The senior men's representative team is known as the Black Marlins, and hosted Australian amateur team the Fitzroy Reds in late 2006.

Although the Black Marlins could not raise the money required to send a team to the 2008 Australian Football International Cup, a Tongan-Australian side did participate in the multicultural division of the competition against multicultural sides from Asia and Africa.

Cricket

The Tonga cricket team is the team that represents the country of Tonga in international cricket matches. They became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council in 2000. [5] They were removed as an affiliate member in June 2014, for failing to comply with membership requirements. [6]

Olympics

Aside from rugby, Tonga has also produced athletes that have competed at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Most recently, Taekwondo athlete Pita Taufatofua competed at the 2016 Olympic Games, where he did not make it past the first round but gained international recognition from his shirtless entry in the opening ceremonies Parade of Nations. [7] Despite freezing temperatures, he donned the same costume again at the 2018 Olympic Games, where he qualified to compete in cross-county skiing. He came in 114th out of 119th in his event.

See also

Related Research Articles

Tonga Country in the South Pacific

Tonga, officially named the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago comprising 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. The total surface area is about 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean. As of 2016, the state had a population of 100,651 people, of whom 70% reside on the main island of Tongatapu.

Tonga national rugby union team rugby union team

The Tonga national rugby union team represents Tonga in men's international rugby union it's nicknamed ʻIkale Tahi . Like their Polynesian neighbours, the Tongans start their matches with a war dance – the Sipi Tau. They are members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance (PIRA) along with Fiji and Samoa. The Ikale Tahi achieved a historic 19–14 victory over France in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but having lost to New Zealand and Canada, were unable to achieve what would have been their first-ever presence at the quarter-finals.

Tonga Rugby Union

The Tonga Rugby Union is the governing body of the sport of rugby union in Tonga. They are members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance (PIRA) along with Fiji and Samoa. There is a rugby union playing population of less than 800 out of a total population of 100,000.

Tonga national rugby league team Tonga national rugby league team

The Tonga national rugby league team represents Tonga in rugby league football. They are currently the fourth ranked team in the world. The team was formed to compete in the 1986 Pacific Cup, and have competed at five Rugby League World Cups, starting in 1995 and continuing consecutively until the most recent tournament in 2017, where they achieved their best ever result as semi-finalists.

Cook Islands national rugby league team national sports team

The Cook Islands national rugby league team has been participating in international rugby league football competition since 1986. The team is controlled by the governing body for rugby league in Cook Islands, Cook Islands Rugby League Association (CIRLA), which is currently a member of the Asia-Pacific Rugby League Confederation (APRLC). They are currently ranked 23rd in the RLIF World Rankings.

The Fiji national rugby league team, nicknamed the Bati, has been participating in international rugby league football since 1992. The team is controlled by the governing body for rugby league in Fiji, Fiji National Rugby League (FNRL), which is currently a member of the Asia-Pacific Rugby League Confederation (APRLC). Fiji have thrice reached the semi-finals of the Rugby League World Cup, in 2008, 2013 and 2017, and are currently ranked 5th in the Rugby League International Federation's World Rankings.

Samoa national rugby league team rugby league team that represents Samoa in rugby league football

The Samoa national rugby league team represents Samoa in rugby league football and has been participating in international competition since 1986. Known as Western Samoa prior to 1997, the team is administered by Rugby League Samoa and are nicknamed Toa Samoa.

Rugby league is a popular team sport played in Tonga.

Toutai Kefu is a Tonga-born rugby coach, who earned 60 caps playing at number eight for the Australian national team. Kefu is currently the head coach of the Tongan national team having previously coached them as a caretaker in 2012. He is also the Assistant Coach of the First 15 at Brisbane Boys College. He is additionally the head coach of the Australian side Queensland Country in the National Rugby Championship, while there is a break between international windows.

Rugby union in Samoa

Rugby union in Samoa is the country's most popular sport. The national teams in both the standard 15-man game and rugby sevens are consistently competitive against teams from vastly more populous nations.

Rugby union in Tonga

Rugby union is the national sport of Tonga. Tonga are considered to be a tier 2 rugby nation by the International Rugby Board.

Rugby union in Fiji

Rugby union in Fiji is a popular team sport and is considered to be the national sport of the country. The sport was introduced to Fiji in the 1880s. Fiji is defined as a tier two rugby nation by World Rugby. The national team has competed at the Rugby World Cup and made it as far as the quarter finals. Their sevens team is also noted for their success, and have won the Rugby World Cup Sevens twice and the World Rugby Sevens Series three times.

This is a history of the Tonga national rugby league team.

2009 Pacific Cup

The 2009 Pacific Cup, known as the 2009 SP Brewery Pacific Cup due to sponsorship, was a rugby league competition held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The competing teams were the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga.

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Rev. Dr. Tevita Hala Palefau is a Tongan politician and Cabinet Minister.

Bruno Banani is a Tongan luger who adopted his current name as part of a marketing hoax.

K. Manakaetau F. 'Otai is coach of the Tonga national team. He was educated at St Peter's College, Auckland and played club rugby in Auckland. His playing position was as flanker. Otai represented Tonga, being capped for the first time on 11 February 1995 against Japan at Nagoya. Otai was the Tongan team captain in the 1995 Rugby World Cup competition, in which he scored a try. Otai was an All Black trialist in 1994.

The Pacific Rugby League International is a rugby league test match that has been played between two Pacific Island nations during the National Rugby League's annual representative weekend since 2013. The fixture was held at Penrith Stadium for the 2013 and 2014 test matches. In 2015, two fixtures were held; Samoa and Tonga competed for the Polynesian Cup while Fiji and Papua New Guinea competed for the Melanesian Cup at Cbus Super Stadium. In 2016 the fixtures returned to New South Wales and were held at Parramatta's Pirtek Stadium.

Group B of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup is one of the four groups in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, which began on 28 October and was completed on 11 November 2017. The group comprised New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland and Tonga. Tonga finished top of the pool while New Zealand and Samoa also qualified for the quarter-finals.

References

  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20120107015727/http://www.rugbyworldcup.com/home/teams/team=42/index.html/
  2. Telegraph, Bruno Banani
  3. Tongas Rodel-Exot Banani verpasst Qualifikation
  4. „This is a dream“ – HRH Princess Pilolevu Tuita initiated commitment
  5. "Nepal, Netherlands get T20 international status". ESPNcricinfo. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  6. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/rio-2016/2016/08/05/opening-ceremony-tonga-flag-bearer/88324126//