Taumalolo is the Cowboys’ $10 million man but gave up growing his earnings with New Zealand by switching to Tonga before the 2017 World Cup. That selfless move, led by Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita, has sparked the red and white surge.
“King of Tonga? I can never take that title, but it’s safe to say the boys feel like kings in their own right,” he said.
The Test against Australia and even Great Britain a week earlier were under threat because of a falling-out with the suspended governing body back home.
Coach Kristian Woolf, who has worked his own miracles the past few years – and for very little money – said: “There were days we started to wonder if things were going to happen. It’s like your life is on hold. Sometimes that phone call doesn’t come. We need the right governance in Tonga.”
St Helens-bound Woolf and Taumalolo said Tonga could win the World Cup in 2021.
“There’s no doubt we can, we’ve just beaten Great Britain and Australia, and we’ve got a lot of improvement,” Woolf said.
“What wins games is how you want to hang in and defend, that’s where you get to show what it means to each other, and that’s what these blokes were willing to do.”