Tongan forward Siosaia Vave has spoken out on one of the biggest issues in our international game – and it’s all to do with money.
It’s now becoming more common for Pacific Island players to turn their back on the likes of Tonga, Samoa and Fiji if they get a call-up for Australia or New Zealand.
A player at this year’s World Cup can get paid $10,000 per game playing for Australia or New Zealand, with a greater chance of reaching the finals, as opposed to $500 a game for Tonga, Samoa or Fiji.
Players who are key to Tonga, such as Konrad Hurell (pictured), will accept the opportunity to play for the Kiwis because the additional $9,500 can help him pay his mortgage and look after family.
This pay divide is hurting the Pacific Island teams and although Vave doesn’t hold a grudge against these players, he believes more needs to be done to bridge the gap.
“It’s the pay package which hurts some of the boys,” he told Fox Sports. “If you can make 10 grand for a NZ side or Australian Test is going to make a big difference than getting a couple of hundred during the week.
“It takes one of those superstars to stand up and take a bold move and make a choice and set the benchmark and the tone for the rest of the kids coming through.”
Vave fears the Tongan World Cup side will be decimated and their potential to grow is being sabotaged, with many of their star names eligible for the Kiwis and Kangaroos.
“Blokes like Solomone Kate and David Fusitu’a are on the borderline of playing. If they’re fit I think they play for New Zealand,” Vave said.
“Names like Michael Jennings are tossed up all the time. Sio Siua Taukeiaho, if we get blokes like them back, I might not be playing.
“We’ve got a lot of pacific islander kids coming through who are happy to pick Australia over Tonga because of the pay packet. We just want the best for Tonga. Our country is little but we’re proud and have a big heart.”