Tongan officials are hoping to present their best player in Saturday night's Rugby League World Cup match against New Zealand with the George William Mann Medal.

The medal is traditionally presented to the best Tongan player in fixtures against New Zealand while the Peter Leitch Challenge Trophy is contested matches involving the two nations. That is except during World Cups.

It is a traditional that goes back to 2008 and honours two men that have had a massive impact on the sport here and in the Pacific Islands.

Mann started Tongan Rugby League while Leitch has been the patron of New Zealand Rugby League since 2011 and has played a huge role in promoting the game, particularly in South Auckland where there is a big Polynesian population.


Duane Mann, George's nephew, captained both the Kiwis and Tonga in his decorated career and is hoping they will be able to present his uncle's medal after the game in Hamilton.

"Under the rules of the Rugby League World Cup no other trophy can be played for during this tournament," Mann told Radio Sport. "It is something we are just trying to do post-game and whether that happens in the changing room we'll have to find out over the coming days."

Tongan players Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, David Fusitua and Manu Mau'u opted against playing for New Zealand or Australia to be able to play for the island nation at this tournament highlighting the importance they place on their culture.

It goes without saying that winning the George William Mann Medal would be a huge honour for any player.

Not only do the Tongans have to find a way around the tournament rules to present the medal but they also need to find a suitable version for Saturday night.

"The last time they played Michael Jennings was actually awarded it," Mann said. "My aunty and my cousin went down on the field and presented it to Michael Jennings, who was the best Tongan player that day," Mann explained.

"Unfortunately Michael has that medal back home in Australia so we are scrambling around to find a replacement one."