Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo have been named in a full-strength Tonga side.
Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo have been named in a full-strength Tonga side.

Suspended Tonga board fires back at ‘rebel Woolf pack’

TONGA'S suspended rugby league board have fired another shot at their players, claiming they shouldn't be able to don the national jersey in matches against Great Britain and Australia.

The under-fire Tonga National Rugby League hit out following the naming of a full-strength Tonga invitational XIII late on Friday night, labelling them a rebel squad.

In a strongly worded statement, TNRL boss George Koloamatangi also claimed the matches couldn't be given Test match status while the board remained suspended.

It comes after the long player boycott of the country finally came to an end this week, with players such as  Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo named under returned coach Kristian Woolf.

A Nines squad was also announced on Friday, with the majority of the big stars also set to turn out at Bankwest Stadium for the event next week.

But while most rugby league officials saw their returns as a positive, the country's suspended administrators did not ahead of the October 26 and November 2 fixtures.

"This cannot be called a Tongan representative team," Koloamatangi said.

"The games cannot be regarded as bone fide (sic) Test matches. It's as simple as that - and these players are not representing Tonga.

"They are part of a rebel team that should be called the Woolf Pack. But they can't be passed off as a Tongan representative side.

"They can't wear our colours, use our logos or take advantage of any of our intellectual property."

It comes after the Rugby League International Federation suspended the TNRL's membership last month, after they lost support of the star-studded playing group and the country's interim Prime Minister.

Andrew Fifita and the players won out against the suspended Tonga Board.
Andrew Fifita and the players won out against the suspended Tonga Board.

The TNRL have since claimed they launched legal proceedings over the suspension. A number of issues formed part of dispute,with the biggest the sacking of Woolf as coach after the earlier removal of a former board.

Woolf is seen as the man who brought Tongan rugby league back together on the global stage, returning several players from tier-one nations.

It helped spark the international game as they reached the semi-finals at the 2017 World Cup, and encouraged other players to return to Pacific sides.

However, in another twist in the power struggle, the Tonga Advisory Council in Auckland claimed the naming of the invitational teams as a "slap in (the) face" that "all Tongan people will take offence to".

Ticket sales are expected to boom for the Hamilton and Auckland matches now the top-line players have returned, despite TNRL claims to the contrary.

 

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News Corp Australia


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