Tonga’s teams for the forthcoming world cups in netball and men’s rugby include superstars who formerly appeared for Australia and New Zealand.
Among them are world cup winner Mo’onia Gerrard and ex-Wallaby Israel Folau.
Tonga Netball has named three experienced international reps in their 15-member Tala squad for the upcoming Netball World Cup in South Africa in July.
Former Australian netball rep Mo’onia Gerrard, former Silver Fern Cathrine Tuivati and former Australian Olympian Jessyka Ngauamo are on their way to Cape Town next month with the Pacific champions.
The improvement in the Tongan team has been remarkable over the past two years improving its status from unranked to currently world No.6.
They go into the world meet with an impressive streak of 20 wins since last year having won two PacificAus Series plus the Oceania Championship.
Gerrard, who played 68 tests for Australia and has twice won the World Cup for the nation, has come out of retirement to represent the Kingdom.
Tuivati played for Samoa from 2005 to 2007 and the Silver Ferns between 2011 and 2014.
Ngauamo, meanwhile, represented Australia in beach volleyball at the 2016 Olympics and plays both netball and basketball also in Australia.
Tonga Netball Chief Executive Officer Salote Sisifa said it is a strong squad and the inclusion of Gerrard, Tuivati and Ngauamo reflects the team management’s aim of ensuring the Tala perform strongly at the World Cup.
“They come in to strengthen the team with their experience at the highest levels they had played in,” Sisifa said.
The three were part of trials Tonga Netball held in Australia, New Zealand and Tonga in the past month.
While Gerrard and Tuivati are well known personalities in netball, Sisifa said Ngauamo adds another dimension to the team, having played at the Olympics for Australia in beach volleyball.
“She plays club netball in Brisbane but she is a sports all-rounder. She was an Olympian representing Australia in beach volleyball and she also plays basketball,” Sisifa said of Ngauamo.
Gerrard has been involved with Tonga Netball for some years while Tuivati debuted for Tala in the 2023 PacificAus Netball Series earlier this year.
The majority of the squad is made up of Tala players who have been with Tonga in the last three to four years.
Sisifa said the squad will move to New Zealand later this month to camp and play warm up matches in their final preparation programme before heading to South Africa.
The Tala squad for the Netball World Cup – Luana Aukafolau, Lose Fainga’anuku, Lucia Fauonuku, Mo’onia Gerrard, Marie Hansen, Kelea Iongi, Jessyka Ngauamo, Beyonce Palavi, Uneeq Palavi, Silia Setefano, Peti Talanoa, Salote Taufa, Valu Toutaiolepo, Cathrine Tuivati, Hulita Veve.
Folau, Fekitoa among stars going to France
The Ikale Tahi team to represent Tonga at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France includes several former Wallabies and All Blacks who had become available with the new World Rugby eligibility rule.
Former Wallabies Adam Coleman, Lopeti Timani and Israel Folau have been named alongside former All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa, Salesi Piutau, Vaea Fifita and George Moala.
They can play for Tonga after World Rugby announced that players can play for their home nations after a three-year gap from their last international game.
Other notable inclusions in the 35-member squad are Moana Pasifika players Solomone Funaki, David Havili, Samuela Moli, Fine Inisi and David Lolohea.
A surprise inclusion in the squad is 20-year-old Kyren Taumoefolau, a Moana Pasifika U-20 rep, who played for the Tonga 7s team in the World Rugby Challenge Series.
The squad go into camp in Nuku’alofa next week to prepare for a warm-up game against Australia A on July 14, Pacific Nations Cup matches against Fiji, Japan and Samoa plus two home Tests against Canada.
Ikale Tahi squad: Loosehead prop – Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Feao Fotuaka, David Lolohea; Hookers – Paula Ngauamo, Siua Male, Samuela Moli, Sosefo Sakalia; Tighthead prop- Ben Tameifuna, Tau Koloamatangi, Sosefo Apikotoa; Locks – Adam Coleman, Samiuela Louisi, Halaleva Fifita, Sitiveni Mafi; Loose Forwards – Vaea Fifita, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Solomone Funaki, Sione Vailanu, Lopeti Tamani, Sione Havili Talitui; Halfbacks – Sonatane Takulua, Augustine Palu, Manu Paea; First five-eights – William Havili, Otumaka Mausia, Patrick Pellegrin; Centres – Pita Ahki, Malakai Fekitoa, George Moala; Outside backs – Fine Inisi, Isileli Folau, Solomone Kata, Salesi Piutau, Kyren Taumoefolau