- Cowboys forward will line up on Battle of the Reef boxing card
- Has not been named for Tonga for international rugby league
- Has revealed reason why he is not on the plan for England
North Queensland Cowboys enforcer Jason Taumalolo will be one of the biggest drawcards on the Battle on the Reef boxing card in Townsville tonight but was also one of the biggest names missing on Tonga‘s teamsheet.
The former 2015 premiership winner famously jumped ship from New Zealand to bolster Tonga’s playing roster in 2017 in a move that took the island nation all the way to a Rugby League World Cup semifinal.
However his name was a conspicuous absence for the Tongan squad that will take on England in three Test matches from October 22.
Instead, Taumalolo will line up on the undercard for the Paulo Aokuso versus Gabriel Omar Diaz fight at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville.
Jason Taumalolo trains ahead of his boxing bout against Reagan Campbell-Gillard at Battle on the Reef in Townsville
Taumalolo, left, will not play for Tonga this year but says he has not given up on the nation to take up boxing instead
The Battle on the Reef fight night includes a host of rugby league players including Taumalolo’s opponent Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Justin Hodges, Matt Cooper, Junior Paulo, Ben Hannant, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jarrod Wallace and Tevita Pangai Junior.
However the former Dally M player of the year said he has not turned his back on Tonga, with a knee injury from this year ruling him out of international duties.
BATTLE ON THE REEF
6.45pm: Austin Aokuso v Filimoni Naliva Jr (cruiserweight)
7.20pm: Jermaine Pangai v Nepote Dawadawa (heavyweight)
7.45pm: Justin Hodges v Matt Cooper (heavyweight)
8.10pm: Junior Paulo v Ben Hannant (heavyweight)
8.30pm: Nelson Asofa-Solomona v Jarrod Wallace (heavyweight)
8.55pm: Tevita Pangai Junior v Frank Amato (heavyweight)
9.30pm – Jason Taumalolo v Reagan Campbell-Gillard (heavyweight)
10pm – Paulo Aokuso v Gabriel Omar Diaz (IBO Intercontinental Light-Heavyweight title)
‘Not at all,’ Taumalolo said.
‘Woolfy [coach Kristian Woolf] has taken some pressure off me, given that I have had a big year with knee surgery and trying to look ahead.
‘I have four more years on my contract and this boxing fight has kept me fit for the majority of my off-season.
‘After this I’ll put my feet up and have a bit of a break before I start pre-season.
‘I know next time I get the opportunity to play for Tonga, next year or whenever that is, I’ll definitely 100 per cent be playing.
‘I’ve just given this year a break, given the big year I’ve had with my knees requiring surgery.’
In the meantime, Taumalolo is looking forward to continuining his fledgling boxing career and said he was learning plenty of lessons along the way.
‘Seeing some former teammates [Tevita Pangai Jr and Ben Hannant] and some of the guys I play against week-in, week-out has been an eye-opener,’ he said.
‘To be on a card which features a world title fight, you can’t ask for a bigger stage to be fighting on. I’m excited and it’s going to be a great night not only for rugby league fans but boxing.’
While the absence of Taumalolo is not ideal for Tonga, Woolf said he was confident the squad had the right balance of youth and experience to upset England at their home grounds.
‘This squad is a strong mix of both players who have shown their passion and skill for Tonga previously, and a few new faces that have underlined their promise with their form in the NRL this season,’ he said.
‘The inclusion of players like Addin Fonua-Blake, Will Hopoate and Felise Kuafusi and the addition of Tyson Frizell to a Tongan squad for the first time will give us a great base.
‘But this is also a Tongan squad for the future, and we are going to give some of our impressive young players a chance to show their talents on the international stage.’
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