TONGA WIN GAME OF TOURNAMENT
JASON Taumalolo last night revealed he was too drunk to answer calls from Kiwis coach David Kidwell to discuss the defection that has rocked international rugby league.
Taumalolo spearheaded one of the great upsets yesterday, leading Tonga to a 28-22 win over New Zealand.
Six weeks ago, the Cowboys’ wrecking ball dropped a World Cup bombshell by rejecting a Kiwi jumper, prompting Kidwell to lash him for his betrayal.
Yesterday, Taumalolo had the last laugh, charging for 120m, while former Australian Andrew Fifita amassed 106m as the Tongans showed immense heart.
Taumalolo appeared to bury the hatchet with several New Zealand figureheads at Waikato Stadium, hugging Kiwi skipper Adam Blair and shaking hands with Kidwell after the game.
Blair and Kidwell have both publicly roasted Taumalolo for not being “man enough” to inform New Zealand of his decision to defect.
Taumalolo admitted he could have handled the affair better, partly because of his heavy drinking after making his decision.
“After this game, I’m not worried about what other people will say about me,’’ Taumalolo said.
“Look, 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 how happy he was for me to represent my country.”
Asked what he could have handled better, Taumalolo said: “Just the timing of it. It was fair enough (for him to be criticised about the timing). 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.
“If you ask Tongans, they will be looked at 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 pre-match 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.
“In the big games, the big players step up and I wanted to step up.”
Tonga celebrate a try, ( above) the haka and Tonga fans, and (below) Jason Taumalolo on the charge.