Tau­malolo ter­rorises ex-team­mates be­fore mak­ing his peace

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - SPORT - PETER BADEL CHIEF RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER

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.

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