Cartwright pleased with Esi Tonga - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cartwright pleased with Esi Tonga

17/03/2009 11:37:12 AM Comments (0)

To many he is better known as Willie Tonga's little brother but those days appeared numbered for Esi Tonga.

The buzz surrounding the Gold Coast's comeback 34-20 NRL season opening win over Newcastle last Sunday centred on the Titans' "little men" - vertically challenged Preston Campbell and Nathan Friend.

But Titans coach John Cartwright said on Monday the turning point was provided by a youngster who doesn't quite fit into that description.

Indeed at 190cm and 100kg, hulking winger Tonga would find most things difficult to fit into.

While Campbell and Friend cut a swathe through the withering Knights in the Gold Coast afternoon heat, Cartwright reckons it was Tonga who broke their hearts at Skilled Park.

In scenes reminiscent of Greg Inglis in the Centenary Test, Tonga's back flick gifted Friend a 37th minute try that capped a stirring fightback.

Down 14-0 after 29 minutes, the Titans went into the halftime break ahead 16-14 after Tonga's heroics.

Tonga finally put the Knights away when his clever lead-up work set flyer William Zillman on an 80m run that sealed the match-winning try in the 72nd minute.

"That (back flick) was probably a major turning point," Cartwright said.

"To be able to go from 14-0 down to leading at halftime on the back of a try like that - the feeling in the shed was great."

At 21, Tonga has already made his international debut after running out in the World Cup for, you guessed it, Tonga.

He is yet to step out of the shadow of his famous sibling but Cartwright believed it was just a matter of time, saying Tonga had a "touch of class" about him.

"He has. It's good to see. One thing we have lacked in recent years is size in our outside backs and Esi is a big, big lad.

"And he is improving all the time.

"We are a long way from seeing the best out of him yet."

Tonga won the initial race for the Titans' hotly contested wing spots.

He held out the club's fastest man Kevin "Flash" Gordon, PNG World Cup flyer David Mead and boom youngster Shannon Walker to be named as a starting winger along with Jordan Atkins last Sunday.

The wing spots had become the teams most hotly contested positions after Tonga, Gordon and Mead re-signed until 2011.

They added to the Gold Coasts growing winger stocks which already boasted Atkins, former North Queensland Cowboy Brenton Bowen and a fully recovered Chris Walker.

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