Former Kiwis and Warriors prop Epalahame Lauaki has come out in support for NRL star Jason Taumalolo, who has chosen to play for Tonga at this year's Rugby League World Cup.
Sources confirmed today and told 1 NEWS that Taumalolo rejected the New Zealand Kiwis and has opted to play for Tonga, the team he represented at the 2013 World Cup.
Lauaki, 33, said Taumalolo's decision will be a huge boost for the Tongan community.
"I was surprised to hear the news and I was so happy," said Lauaki.
"There is probably a little kid in Tonga that is wanting to be the next Taumalolo, so it's really, really good."
Lauaki said playing for pride rather than money is a huge deal and that Taumalolo's choice might help sway other Polynesian players to play for their family's home country.
Jason Taumalolo playing for Tonga against Samoa
"I'm sure he has done it for his parents, his mum, dad and family back in Tonga," he said.
"That's the one thing you can never take away from the island boys is their heart for the island.
"I think he has made every single person in his family proud."
Lauaki played 69 NRL matches for the Warriors and played two Tests for the Kiwis.
"Maybe this has galvanised them, hearing each other's stories and knowing they are not alone," say the nurses behind the Facebook group, New Zealand, please hear our voice.