Manly flyer Koula vows not to be distracted by rugby raid

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Tolutau Koula says it’s “good to be wanted” after Rugby Australia approached him about a potential code switch, but the rising Manly star has vowed not to let the tug of war for his services become a distraction.

Koula is contracted to the Sea Eagles until the end of 2024, but the club is desperate to keep him long term. In a bid to keep the poachers at bay, Manly have tabled a three-year deal that would keep the Tongan international at Brookvale until the end of 2027, but he is yet to decide whether to accept it.

The 20-year-old is on the Wallabies’ radar as speculation builds that former Manly recruiter Scott Fulton will also target the club’s players after taking a role at Wests Tigers.

Koula said he was flattered by the interest, but isn’t ready yet to decide whether to return to the 15-man game.

“It’s good to be wanted,” Koula said. “I’m not really paying attention to all of that stuff. My manager and my family are taking care of me and all of that stuff. My main focus is just playing footy for Manly and doing my own thing.

“I like it here at Manly, all the boys and stuff; I’ve liked it ever since I’ve been here.

Tolutau Koula is a young man in demand.Credit: Getty

“I grew up playing rugby league first and I went to Newington, which is a pretty big rugby school.

“The majority of my high school I played union, but I’m here playing league now.

“I enjoy playing league, initially coming out of high school they had a good deal for me. It felt like the right thing to do and I think it was the right choice.”

Koula played alongside Joseph Suaalii on the Australian Schoolboys rugby union tour that ended a seven-year winless drought against New Zealand in 2019. Having nabbed Suaalii, Rugby Australia has set its sights on other NRL stars, including Payne Haas, Cameron Murray and Koula.

Rugby Australia has already snared Joseph Suaalii.Credit: Getty Images

Having already represented Tonga at the Rugby League World Cup, there is an opportunity to represent Australia in the rugby union edition.

“That would be something pretty special to do. We’ll see what happens,” Koula said.

“Obviously, it’s a big thing, but it’s just a bit too far in the future for me to be worried about with everything going on right now.

“The main communication with all of that external stuff has gone through my manager. He takes good care of me and handles all of that.”

Koula, who made a successful return from knee surgery three weeks ago, is part of an understrength Manly side that takes on Newcastle on Sunday. The Silvertails will be missing Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans and all three Trbojevic brothers – Tom, Jake and Ben – for the clash at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The game will mark the club debut of Jake Arthur, who will come off the bench after leaving the familiarity of playing under his father, Brad, at Parramatta.

“Jake will come onto the bench,” Manly coach Anthony Seibold said on Saturday.

“That will add some flexibility and versatility depending on the game.

“He’s been the standout in NSW Cup this year, and I’ve loved his work ethic this week. We’ve brought him to the club to give him an opportunity and he’ll get an opportunity to debut tomorrow afternoon.”

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