Imports transform team
A MUSCLE-bound shipment delivered across the Coral Sea has transformed Burnett Premier League team Mundubbera Tigers from wooden spoon favourites to premiership hopefuls.
The struggling Tigers looked set to suffer another season without a win after being hit with two whitewash defeats in the opening fixtures of the competition.
But enterprising Tigers' president Gavin Ford is now rubbing his hands together in anticipation of the team's first successful bid for the finals after a little bit of help from the Pacific Islands.
“It's been a bit of a godsend for us,” Ford said.
“It was shaping up to be another very ordinary year, but we've turned a corner and we're picking up speed as we hit the home stretch.”
Tongan nationals Dwinelle Luani, Puli Fiutou, Tatafu Niutupuivaha and Simia Pese had never played a game of rugby league before their debut at Tiger Park, but made their presence felt immediately.
“Their combined effect is actually pretty devastating,” Ford said.
“When they get a rattle on they are mighty hard to stop.”
The new recruits travelled from the village of Puke, on the island of Vau, as part of the Pacific Islands Seasonal Workers Program to work in the famous citrus orchids of Mundubbera.
Under the guidance of Martin Tindall, the program's Mundubbera co-ordinator and the captain of Tonga's 1991 World Cup rugby union team, the men made a switch from the country's preferred sport to league with a devastating impact. Tigers sit in equal fifth place of the competition – and are only two points off inclusion in the finals with two games remaining.
Ford said having the Tongan recruits on board had lifted the standard of football played by their Australian team-mates.
“It's helped inject a bit of passion and enthusiasm into the team.
“The other players are playing the best football of their careers,” he said.
“We're up there with the best teams in the competition now and we'll be entering the last two games with confidence.”