Lord Kalaniuvalu has awarded pieces of land to Jason Taumālolo and Tu’imoala Lolohea as rewards after they represented Tonga during Rugby League World Cup 2017.
The reward was confirmed by the noble yesterday in a cultural ceremony which was attended by the two Mate Ma’a Tonga players.
The reward was one of the highest honours a king’s noble could award.
The formal ceremony began with presentation of the cultural practice of hāʻunga (baked food normally and formally presented as a welcome) for the rugby league stars.
It was presented with puaka tohos (big hogs) and followed with a formal speech by the matāpule who represented Lord Kalaniuvalu.
Lord Kalaniuvalu was emotional when he made the announcement yesterday saying he remembered his late father Lord Kalaniuvalu Fotofili who was instrumental in supporting sports in Tonga.
The event was recorded on video and shared on social media.
Taumālolo, who dropped a bombshell on New Zealand, announcing his decision to play for its rival Tonga at the World Cup 2017, comes from Lapaha through his mother, Tominika.
Lolohea, a former Warriors five-eighth, is from Talasiu through his father Paula Lolohea.
Tonga won four games in a row before it exited the world cup distressingly after a controversial loss to England at semi final.
But its Mate Ma’a Tonga team’s performance was described by international media as the story of this tournament.
The Guardian said: “They played with heart, with power, with skill and they were the pride of their small nation. The crowd’s singing during today’s semi, even when Tonga were down 20-0, will stay with me for some time.”