Interim Rugby League body being considered in Tonga

Tonga perform the haka before facing Australia in 2019. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

An interim management body could be established as to run the affairs of Tongan Rugby League in the lead-up to the World Cup later this year.

It comes after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) dismissed an appeal by the former governing body, Tonga National Rugby League, over its expulsion from the International Rugby League.

The Asia-Pacific Rugby League Confederation last year endorsed the bid by a rival body, Tonga Ma’a Tonga Rugby League (TMTRL), for full IRL membership.

The TMTRL President, Lord Fakafanua, said discussions with the IRL and Tongan government have begun but acknowledged it was still a sensitive time for the sport.

“There were factions that were for TNRL and some were for TMT(RL) and everyone was basically waiting for the pending decisions from CAS,” he said.

“Now that we have a judgement different parties have to come together now so we can make sure we have a united front for the World Cup.”

The Speaker of the House, Lord Fakafanua Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koro Vaka’uta

IRL Secretary General Danny Kazandjian said a new governing body in Tonga could be confirmed by early June if TMTRL’s application is endorsed by the Asia Pacific Rugby League, the IRL and it’s membership.

But Fakafanua. who is the current speaker of Tonga’s Parliament, said TMTRL was not getting ahead of itself.

“Full membership (of the IRL) might take some time and their may be discussions with IRL to set up an interim body to facilitate Tonga’s participation in the World Cup, and that’s something that we have to have a discussion with the government (about) and obviously garner their support.”

TMTRL has the support of the Tongan players and coach but Lord Fakafanua said they do not yet have the official backing of the government.

“The government is acting very cautious because they are aware of the different factions within league in Tonga, and there is a general consensus that league should be united for the World Cup,” he said.

“So I think government has a key role in bringing TMTRL, TNRL and the other factions together and that’s something we are looking forward to happening.”

Prime Minister of Tonga, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa. Photo: Government of Tonga

The International Rugby League said Tonga’s membership will be discussed at its upcoming Board meeting on Wednesday.

Lord Fakafanua anticipated there will be some pushback in Tonga by people who do not support TMTRL but said it was important the players did not become “bogged down” or “distracted” by off-field disputes.

“What I would say to those who have been in opposition, backing TNRL or opposed to TMT, is it’s time for us to come together now,” he said.

“The CAS decision is final and we just need to back one horse and make sure that we get the best outcome out of the World Cup. All this bickering isn’t going to get us anwhere and and obviously we’ve taken it on a legal route and this is the final outcome,” Lord Fakafanua said.

Resource: RNZ