Following a hugely successful inaugural year, the 2016 edition of the Tupi Cup will see a number of exciting new changes come to fruition, as the tournament maintains its role as a forum to continue strengthening Tongan rugby players but also as an avenue to advocate for important issues in the Pacific.
This year, aspiring females hoping to play for Queensland Tonga will do so via a new significant format, with the introduction of the “Freedom for West Papua Cup”. The Cup will be contested by an extended Queensland Tonga women’s squad and their fellow Pacific sisters from the Queensland PNG rugby program.
Both teams will play off in a 10-a-side, best of three series during the competition and has been introduced to bring much needed awareness to the injustices and human atrocities being suffered by the West Papuan people.
Aside from being an important issue that the Queensland Tonga Rugby Union wants to bring to light, the new concept definitely has special significance to the PNG community, the closest neighboring community to West Papua.
Those thoughts are evident in the comments shared by Mel Kawa, a decorated Queensland representative and one of Queensland’s finest female premier players from the Queensland PNG community and rugby program.
“I’m proud that alongside the Queensland Tonga Rugby Union, we can use our mutual love of rugby to come together to help bring to light the issue of human rights happening in our backyard.”
In other tournament news, defending champions Alamuhu will this year enjoy home ground advantage as the powerhouse team will again look to defeat all comers for the title in familiar surrounds, with the tournament heading to their current home base in Rocklea, Kookaburra Oval, home of Brothers St Brendans.
Alamuhu committee member Stiveni Afu is hoping Alamuhu’s expected brigade of new faces will provide impetus for another strong showing in 2016.
“There a lot of new boys who will come in this year, with a number of our experienced boys from last year ruled out for different reasons, but like last year we expect them to go just as hard.”
Unlike the previous year, this year’s festivities will take place over two weekends, September 3rd and 10th respectively, to accommodate another new development for the men’s side of the draw… the official birth of another north side Tongan team, to be known as the Northside Tongan Vikings.
The additional north side team will provide an additional pathway for players on the north side to prove their wares and get an opportunity to audition for a coveted Queensland Tonga jersey alongside players from the existing foundation teams Alamuhu, Logan Inala, and the Northiside Tongan Barbarians.
The venture has been driven by the Queensland Tonga committee to consolidate the tournament before the Tupi Cup is opened to other teams in Queensland and abroad, with huge interest already being shown by Tongan teams within the State, inter State and overseas wanting to take part in the tournament in the years ahead.
In perhaps one of the most exciting developments for the future of the Tupi Cup and the Queensland Tonga Rugby program as a whole, following great negotiations with organisers of the famous “Willie O Cup” in Sydney, New South Wales, from next year onward the winner of the Tupi Cup will then go head to head with the winner of the Willie O Cup in a “Felenite Champions Trophy Clash”.
The new relationship will effectively begin the partnership of the Queensland Tonga Rugby Union with the Willie O and Felenite Australia Tonga Organisations and the champions trophy clash will act as an appetizer for a “State of Origin” concept to again be reactivated down the track between Queensland and a “Willie O” NSW Tonga team to pick an Australia Tonga Felenite squad from.
The decision allows Queensland Tonga to honour a long time association key contributors like Toutai Kefu has supported and participated in (Felenite), in previous years and acknowledge local Queensland teams who went and participated in the Willie O Cup back in the 90’s prior to the establishment of Queensland Tonga Rugby.
Australia Tonga Felenite Manager Fotu Mokofisi expressed his pleasure at the continued strengthening of the traditional Felenite team, with the recent inclusion of the Queensland Tonga program to the fold.
“The Willie O and the Felenite Committees would like to extend our warmest welcome to our Queensland brothers, and are so delighted to finally get the chance to link with their organisation.”
Queensland Tonga Executive Committee member Daniel Fualalo shared similar sentiments, echoing the Queensland Tongan Rugby committee’s pleasure at finally being able to align correctly with the Willie O and Felenite Committees.
“The Felenite team has a proud and rich history with some of the greatest Tongans to play rugby from Australia involved with the program, most notably Willie O and Toutai and we are glad to be able to honour that history as a program and make a decision that will help talented Tongan rugby players get opportunities via our new partnership.”
All things considering, all the recent developments prove that the Tupi Cup is quickly establishing itself as marquee rugby event for the Tongan community in Queensland and will only get bigger as it grows.
Keep posted on the Queensland Tonga Facebook page and website to stay up to date on all announcements for the 2016 Tupi Cup.