16 Oct 2019

Tonga rugby league power struggle 'stupid'

4:59 am on 16 October 2019

Andrew Fifita has hit back at the Tongan National Rugby League, describing the power struggle over their national team as "stupid".

Andrew Fifita leads the Tongan Sipi Tau ahead of the test against Australia in Auckland last year.

Andrew Fifita leads the Tongan Sipi Tau ahead of the test against Australia in Auckland last year. Photo: Photosport

Fifita will lead an invitational Tongan team at the World Cup nines on Friday that includes NRL stars Jason Taumalolo and Tevita Pangai Junior.

"We had our stance, and we got through it and I think that's the best thing that's come through. We're ready to play nines," said Fifita.

But they will do so just days after the TNRL, which was recently suspended by the Rugby League International Federation, branded the team as a rebel squad.

Over 30 Tongan players threatened to boycott the nines tournament as well as both their upcoming Test matches due to ongoing issues with the TNRL.

But that stance is now over and former coach Kristian Woolf has been re-instated for a team TNRL officials labelled as the "Woolf Pack".

"Yeah I love it. I really love it," Fifita said of the new term.

"(But) I can't wait to get our old name back. Just being brutally honest, it's stupid what's going on at the moment.

"But look, Woolf-pack, any kind of pack, as long as I'm standing next to these boys, I'm happy. You can call us anything in the world, it's not going to affect us."

The TNRL claimed the invitational team can't be described as a Tongan representative side, nor are they allowed to use their colours or logos.

But Fifita, who said the squad will also perform their traditional war dance at the nines, is adamant they still represent the island nation.

"Whatever they come with, it's just words at the end of the day. We're Tongan. They can say we're not Tongan and not the Tongan team," he said.

"Look at us, our culture is Tonga. Everyone a part of this team is Tongan and whoever we bring in, you've got to learn the culture."

Fifita led the war dance, known as the Sipi Tau, when he last represented Tonga in their Test match against Australia last November.

Fifita had previously represented the Kangaroos before switching allegiances to the Mate Ma'a in 2017, prompting a power shift among the league nations.

"I did it once only and that was against my former nation. That was out of respect, that I should do it," Fifita said of the Sipi Tau.

"But no, I'll leave it to one of the other boys. I don't talk fluent Tongan.

"I was just grateful that there wasn't a microphone right in front of me. But I got the job done, I was happy for that.

"But we're going to stick it out with one leader and I'll let them do it."