You’d think pressure for Hull FC back rower and Tonga captain Sika Manu would be water off a ducks back.
This is a player who has been there and done that. He’s won an NRL Premiership with Melbourne, featured for the mighty Penrith Panthers, won the World Cup in 2008 and won back to back Challenge Cups with Hull.
Manu is as decorated as they come, and proudly captains his national team Tonga – a side that is widely tipped to do well in this upcoming World Cup tournament. That itself brings with it some pressure, and his team are feeling it.
“I want us to do well, just for the people in Tonga who were gave us such a great reception when we were there preparing for the World Cup,” Manu told the Daily Telegraph in Australia.
“You see all the red and white on the streets of Nukuʻalofa, wishing us well and it makes you proud.
“Having Jason and Andrew is massive for the team and for Tonga as well. Usually we see players go the other way to play for Australia or New Zealand.”
And as for the talent in Tonga – its growing. Manu is all aware of that and says it’s great for the international game that teams are getting stronger.
Tonga for instance on paper look formidable, and will be competitive in every match.
“Woolfy (coach Kristian Woolf) has done a good job. This is my third World Cup and the talent in each team, teams like Samoa and Italy, is so much better. At the last World Cup in 2013, we were struggling to find players,” Manu continued.
“It’s been great to see rugby league get a little bigger in Tonga all the time. Every village will have a rugby league team. It’s not as big as rugby union, but it’s slowly growing. We are slowly turning the rugby union players into rugby league players.
“The expectations are a lot higher than usual, and the boys feel a little bit of pressure which we need to control. It’s my job and Kristian’s job to keep everyone on the rails.”
Manu played 88 NRL games for Melbourne and 61 more for Penrith before moving to Hull FC, where he has just one more year to run on his contract.
“I’m a bit homesick, so I’ll see what happens after that,” he added.