Parramatta centre Willie Tonga admits he was reduced to tears by the Eels’ gut-wrenching loss to Manly on Sunday.
Former representative star Willie Tonga has revealed Parramatta’s heartbreaking 22-18 defeat by Manly on Sunday reduced him to tears.
The ex-Queensland and Test centre has endured a torrid time since rejoining the Eels in 2012 with injuries keeping him on the sidelines for all but 16 games following his arrival from North Queensland.
During that time the club have claimed two wooden spoons, but under new coach Brad Arthur, Tonga has shed 12 kilograms in a bid to stay fit and he said going down in the final minute to the Sea Eagles was harder to take than any other game in a career that began 12 years ago.
“I was shattered,” Tonga said.
“I’ve honestly never felt like that after a loss in my life. I’ll be a man about it – I was tearing up in the sheds.
“To be so close and to put in so much effort, to get that result was heartbreaking.”
The defeat was Parramatta’s 21st straight loss away from home but a marked improvement on their dismal display eight days earlier when they were thumped 56-4 by the Sydney Roosters.
Tonga said the pain of defeat wasn’t just because of the manner of the loss, but an accumulation of the frustration that has been building over the last two years where defeat has become a common theme at the club.
“It is (a build up),” he said.
“It gets tough, the people out there that don’t really go through this wouldn’t realise.
“We’re out there busting ourselves trying to do our best every week. It just wasn’t meant to be.
“A lot of heads were down, but Brad’s been so positive saying ‘look, it’s a positive step ahead from where we were last week’.
“Considering they were the grand finalists, the game was there to be won for us but we didn’t take our opportunities.”
While there has been plenty of doom and gloom around the club since the magical run to the 2009 grand final, Tonga said the emergence of young Fijian winger Semi Redradra, who’s scored six tries in the opening three games of the season is a beacon of hope.
“I couldn’t speak more highly of him,” Tonga said.
“He’s one of the first to be at training and one of the last to leave training. He’s always asking questions … I think last year might have been his first year of rugby league.
“He’s worked really hard on his game. It’s no fluke to see what you’re seeing at the moment. He’s worked really hard and he’s going to be something special in the future.”