Toutai Kefu will be juggling both of his coaching roles this weekend, with the Queensland Country coach keeping one eye on the next generation of Tongan talent at Ballymore.
Queensland Tonga and the Manly Marlins team that won the recent Willie O Cup, a Tongan rugby competition based in NSW, will face off ahead of Sunday’s Brisbane City-Queensland Country derby as part of the NRC's Pacific Island round,
Tonga coach Kefu said he was keen to use the game to scout some talent for the national side.
“It’s very important for me just to get a view point on what potential is there,” he said.
Kefu said competitions like the Willie O Cup allowed players to continue to develop outside the traditional pathways in rugby union and league.
“These good players, if they don’t picked up, by the rugby league or the rugby union systems, they kind of fall out and they’re basically just lost to rugby wilderness,” he said.
“Tournaments likes these, they capture players that don’t get in through the normal system or the normal routes, though school, club rugby, U20s, and even the NRC.”
The Willie O Cup includes 10 teams from across NSW and runs from the October 22 until November 26, with Manly-Warringah the three-time defending champions.
Chief organiser and major sponsor of the Willie O Cup, Fotu Mokofisi said the competition, started in 1993, was revamped three years ago to encourage and inspire Tongan players to continue playing rugby all year round.
“The boys are forever looking forward to the competition and it keeps them busy and out of trouble after the Shute Shield has ended,” he said.
“It’s more than just a rugby program, it’s a character building program as well.”
Mokofisi said the support and interest from the community would only be good for developing Pacific Islander talent in rugby.
“The real winner here is rugby, and it’s a game we love,” he said.
“It’s the only game they play in heaven.”
Brisbane City go head-to-head with Queensland Country in the Ballymore derby clash on Sunday at 3pm AEDT.