Dyldam Parramatta Eels centre Willie Tonga has today paid tribute to Eels fans, as he confirms he will move to the Catalans Dragons from 2015.
Willie made his NRL debut in Blue and Gold in 2001 and returned to the Eels in 2012, and has this week been named Captain of the side to run out against the Warriors.
“The first two years here were the hardest two years of my life, and I don’t say that lightly,” Tonga said.
“With injuries and back surgery, there were times I didn’t think I could walk again, let alone play; and there were still Eels supporters encouraging me and wishing me the best, which has meant a lot to me.”
After being named to return to the Representative arena in 2014 with the Queensland Maroons squad for Origin 2, Tonga has this message for the Blue and Gold army.
“I want to thank our supporters and also apologise; I know there was a lot of expectation from our fans and from myself coming from Townsville having just played for Australia, and I know in the first two years here I didn’t live up to that,” he said.
“But I want to thank those who have been here from day one, encouraging me and getting me back out on the field, where I’m giving it all I’ve got.”
“Starting my career here back in 2001, it seems fitting that I would come back here and I couldn’t see myself playing for any other NRL club; I’m glad that I can say I’ve started and ended my NRL career here.”
Eels Head Coach Brad Arthur has thanked Willie for his time with the club, and specifically praised his leadership.
“He’s been an absolute credit to himself in terms of pushing himself through training difficulties to get himself in shape, and he’s only missed one game all year,” Arthur said.
“His leadership through his mental toughness that he’s showed to the young players in our side has been invaluable.”