6 Sep 2019

Sport: Tonga league players threaten boycott

12:48 pm on 6 September 2019

Tonga's international rugby league players are reportedly threatening to boycott the World Cup 9s and end of season tests over the uncertain future of coach Kristian Woolf.

Since the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, where Tonga defeated New Zealand on its way to a semi-final berth, the Mate Ma'a Tonga has emerged as a top international side.

Tongan players stand dejected during Saturday's heavy defeat by the Kiwis.

Tongan players are reportedly unhappy. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

However this may be short-lived with the NRL.COM reporting the possibility of a player boycott.

Former Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan has reportedly been appointed coach for next month's World Cup 9s and is touted to replace Woolf for the end-of-season tests against Great Britain and Australia.

Tonga Rugby League coach Kristian Woolf.

Kristian Woolf has coached Tonga since 2014. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

However the team, which includes high calibre players including Andrew Fifita, Will Hopoate and Jason Taumalolo, have called for the interim Tonga National Rugby League Board to hold an election.

The players are seeking the removal of board chair George Koloamatangi, secretary William Edwards and the reinstatement of Woolf.

Former player and official John Hopoate posted on social media that Woolf had been told to stand down after five years in charge.

Hopoate, who is the father of fullback Will, said he was acting as a spokesperson for the players and that they were writing letters to the board in support of Woolf.

There are now fears the nation's stars will change allegiances back to Australia and New Zealand.

Jason Taumalolo and Will Hopoate are among Tonga's star players.

Jason Taumalolo and Will Hopoate are among Tonga's star players. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Hopoate said the players could make themselves available for Australia and New Zealand in the end-of-season Oceania Cup.

"If this interim board think that they can come in and do this after all the hard work we have done to get the players to play for Tonga and to stay loyal to us they have got another thing coming," Hopoate posted on his Facebook page.

"Just finished speaking with the players and they are getting letters done up now. But if this board is still the board during the 9s and the two Tests at the end of the year, and as a spokesman for the players, we will NOT be taking any part in any of the games.

"They are talking about going back to Australia and New Zealand too."

Fifita and Taumalolo led a wave of high profile players from the larger nations to the Tongan camp before the last World Cup.

AAP reports the Rugby League Players' Association is aware of the situation and is offering the players support.