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Will Hopoate and Addin Fonua-Blake running out in the English test series.

Tonga Rugby League


What’s next for Mate Ma’a Tonga? Tongan league legend says the youthful talent of MMT will carry their team forward

John Hopoate joined PMN Tonga after spending time in the UK with the Mate Ma’a Tonga during their historic English series.

Matt Manukuo
Matt Manukuo
10 November 2023, 6:34am
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The meteoric success of Mate Ma’a Tonga over the past 7 years came to a halt after their 3-0 series loss to England. It was the first time a tier two nation faced a tier one nation for a tri-test series.

But Tongan rugby league great John Hopoate is encouraged by the Tongan youngsters in the team to carry the team forward.

“It came down to a lack of experience, we’ve got a lot of young kids in the team that will be good for the future. We’ve got about eight kids under 23, so we’ve got a really young squad.

“The team that beat New Zealand and Australia had been together for a few years, so you’ve got to keep the faith in these young kids. Their time will come.

“We are very confident in these boys and more wins will come in the future.”

Only five players remain in the squad from MMT’s historic 2017 World Cup run and historic defeats of Australia and Great Britain in 2019.


Hopoate says the addition of the younger players in the team will be benefit the Tongan side, as the veteran players phase out.

“With so many young kids in there, Will (Hopoate) and Koni (Konrad Hurrell) are both retired. Kaufusi too is getting on in age. A lot of them are first timers, first time together and playing for Tonga.

“Between the squad that beat New Zealand and then beat Australia two years later, there was only a change of one player, and that was Kotoni Staggs.

“So this team will need a lot more time to play together, to get more experience playing in these test matches.”