Taumalolo terrorises ex-teammates before making his peace
TONGAN turncoat Jason Taumalolo last night took aim at critics of his controversial World Cup defection after spearheading one of the greatest upsets in international rugby league history.
Taumalolo appeared to bury the hatchet with several New Zealand figureheads at Waikato Stadium, hugging Kiwi skipper Adam Blair and shaking hands with coach David Kidwell after the win.
Blair and Kidwell have both publicly roasted Taumalolo for not being “man enough” to inform New Zealand of his decision to defect to Tonga.
The Cowboys wrecking ball last night admitted he could have handled the affair better but ultimately has no regrets over the defection that has ignited Tonga’s World Cup campaign.
“What people said about me doesn’t bother me,” he said.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I didn’t try and
get read what caught up in it, I try not to he papers or worry about has been said. After this game, I’m not worried about what other people will say about me. I could have handled it better to be honest. I spoke to him (Kidwell) after the game, I apologised about how things went. He was pretty good to talk to and said happy he was for me to represent my country.” Asked what he could have handled better, Taumalolo Just the timing of it. It was fair enough (for him to be criticised about the tim- ing). The timing was a bit late, but I didn’t want to distract the Cowboys and our preparations during the NRL finals.
“Half the reason I didn’t tell (Kidwell) is because I was still blind on Mad Monday.
“Being drunk and handling phones doesn’t go too well ... that has got me into some bad decisions in the past.”
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said Taumalolo and his band of defectors would be idolised by the nation’s rugby league fans after the 28-22 win.
“If you ask Tongans, they will be looked at these guys as heroes,” he said. “You always want to see the best players playing in this World Cup and it’s great to have guys like Jason and Andrew (Fifita) in our squad.”
Taumalolo led Tonga’s prematch war dance and said it was the suggestion of the leadership group.
“I was pretty nervous about it,” he said. “I was practising in the sheds before the game.
“I went into the toilet where the cameras couldn’t see me and did some moves. A lot was on the line out there. Nothing is personal for me ... it was just emotional playing against the country where I was born.”
INCREDIBLE HULK: Tonga star forward Jason Taumalolo on the charge against New Zealand at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton where the hosts went down 28-22. Picture: Getty Images
RED ARMY: Tonga celebrate their stunning victory over New Zealand.