By Mabel Muller - email@example.com
There's hope that Tonga's national rugby league competition will strengthen the Tongan spirit and bring joy back to communities after the devastation of Cyclone Gita.
The Jason Taumalolo Cup kicks off tomorrow, just three weeks after the tropical Cyclone swept through the island, leaving many with damaged homes, some of which may take months to rebuild.
Jason Taumalolo. Photo/ PRN.
A record-breaking 30 local clubs have signed up for the tournament and Tonga NRL manager Tavake Fangupo says they're hoping to spread a little cheer.
"To take everyone's minds off the doom and gloom of what's happening, we thought we'd push for our competition and I think a lot of the clubs wanted to support that," he says.
"Hopefully we can put some happy faces on people, to come watch some games."
The final is set to be held in May and Jason Taumalolo himself is due to present the cup to the victors.
Fangupo says Mate Ma'a Tonga's crowd-pleasing campaign last year has boosted interest in the sport in the little Kingdom.
"The participation of athletes is only going to grow," he says. "As long as we manage it and operate it and look after all of the clubs, I think every year it's going to get bigger."