The National, Thursday, May 26th 2011
BRISBANE: Willie Tonga has been hailed for producing one of Queensland’s bravest State of Origin efforts of all-time after playing out the Maroons’ 16-12 game one triumph with a serious shoulder injury.
Cowboys centre Tonga partially dislocated his shoulder in a collision with NSW fullback Josh Dugan in the 17th minute last night, but refused to be replaced at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland coach Mal Meninga has played, coached or watched every Origin match since the concept started in 1980, labelling the display among the toughest in Maroons’ history.
A proud Meninga particularly praised Tonga for his effort to combine with left-side partner Darius Boyd to shut down Blues’ danger man Mark Gasnier.
“How courageous was that?” the coach asked. – AAP
“I think that should go down in the annals as one of the toughest performances from a Queensland player ever because we needed him.
“He hung in there tough and some of the defence he came up with, with his shoulder (injured), in the second half was outstanding.”
Queensland skipper Darren Lockyer said Tonga’s courage lifted his team.
Meninga had put utility Cooper Cronk on notice to replace the centre, but said Tonga would not let the Maroons’ trainers take him from the field.
“Willie hung tough and didn’t want to let the team down,” he said. “He just didn’t want to go off.
“In the end he made the right decision, and I’m very proud of his efforts.
“He felt better as the game went on and, hopefully, he hasn’t done too much damage.”
Tonga is expected to have scans on Thursday when he returns to Townsville.