UK supplier blamed after Ikale Tahi gear turns up late; CEO hits back in wake of pay saga

    Na’e ‘ikai ha talausese ‘o e tamaiki ‘Ikale Tahi’ ke nau va’inga’aki ‘i Fisi he tunameni ne toki ‘osi’. ‘Osi e tau ia ‘e ua toki tau atu e talausese’. ‘Oku tukuaki’i ‘a e palopalema’ ni ki he kautaha Pilitānia ko e Mizuno ‘a ia ko kinautolu ‘oku nau siponisā ‘a e vala mo e ngaahi naunau ‘a e ‘Ikale Tahi’. Kuo fakahā mai ‘e ‘Inoke Afeaki, ko e pule ‘o e ‘Ikale Tahi’ ki he Kaniva’ ‘oku palopalema lahi ‘enau fetakai mo e Mizuno. Na’e ‘osi ‘ota kei taimi pe talausese’ kae tōmui hono tiliva mai’ pea ‘ikai ‘omi fakataha’i kae uta kehekehe mai ia. Na’e iku ai ke toe kumi ‘e he ‘Ikale Tahi’ hanau talausese pe ‘i Fisi ‘o va’inga’aki he tau mo Ha’amoa mo Siōsia’. Pehē ‘e Fe’ao Vunipola ‘e fakataha mo e Mizuno ke toe vakai’i ‘ene aleapau mo e ‘Ikale Tahi’. Ne toki ma’u foki e vahe ‘a e ‘Ikale Tahi’ ‘i ha ngaahi ‘aho hili e tunameni 'i Fisi ne toki 'osi' ka ‘oku tukuaki’i ‘e Fe’ao ngali ne ‘ikai fakamatala fakalelei ‘e Afeaki mo e kau pule timi’ ki he tamaiki va’inga’ ‘e pau ke ki’i tōmui hono fakahū ‘enau vahe’ ki he’enau ‘akauni’ pangikē taki taha.

    The ‘Ikale Tahi team players arrived in Fiji for the Pacific Nations Cup to find out they had no shorts to wear during last month’s tournament.

    The match shorts did not arrive until the ‘Ikale Tahi’s last game, in which they beat Fiji two weeks ago.

    This was despite the fact they were ordered well in advance and were expected to arrive in late May.

    Tonga Rugby Union has signed an agreement with UK Mizuno to sponsor the shorts and team kit.

    ‘Ikale Tahi manager ‘Inoke Afeaki told Kaniva News, the team’s kit arrived in New Zealand late and in several separate deliveries.

    He said even the New Zealand Mizuno agent was not sure about the whereabouts of large amounts of missing team kit, not just the match shorts.

    “UK Mizuno were very difficult to work with,” Afeaki, a former ‘Ikale Tahi test captain said.

    “The service from UK Mizuno sponsor caused us real issue and fortunately we solved the issue with very limited funds.”

    UK Mizuno could not be reached for comment.

    Afeaki said they approached a sports clothing manufacturer in Suva which provided the team with shorts for the games against Georgia and Samoa.

    “We had one piece of luck where we intercepted delivery of match shorts at Nadi airport customs as our team bus travelled from Suva to Lautoka to play our final game against Fiji,” he said.

    “We had followed the track and trace numbers very closely throughout its slow journey once the match shorts were found and sent to Fiji.

    “Having a clothing sponsor in the Northern Hemisphere is not ideal.

    “This is another reoccurring problem to improve the process in future.

    “Unfortunately when people ignore their responsibilities, it creates a lot of extra work for others.

    Afeaki said he knew Japan Mizuno were very upset with this disaster.

    “This is not a TRU error but one from our UK Mizuno Sponsors.

    “It would be good to know the agreement that TRU and UK Mizuno have as we received very little as a National Rugby Team, especially one that is in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.”

    CEO Fe’ao Vunipola said he would talk to the Mizuno.

    “With regards to the shorts, I’ll be meeting Mizuno UK to find out about this issue and review our agreement bearing in mind the 2019 RWC,” Vunipola said.

    Players’ pay

    Meanwhile, Vunipola has hit back after Bath flyer Cooper Vuna tweeted after the Fiji match that players were still waiting for Vunipola to pay the team and congratulate them on their achievements.

    Vunipola said the players were told, together with the board of directors, that the TRU would do its best to seek sponsors or government assistance for a “win bonus.”

    He said it was unfortunate the government’s commitment was limited to providing player allowances. He said the TRU was not in a position to assist.

    The players were finally paid last month.

    Vunipola said: “Lano Fonua, Inoke Afeaki and Toni Alatini were well aware of the circumstances affecting player allowances and the likelihood that it would be directly deposited to players’ accounts a few days late.

    “And yet, they did not inform Cooper Vuna and the players. To date, they have received all their allowances.

    “The motive was clear and obvious for all to see. Inoke Afeaki was highly critical of the TRU after Cyclone Gita, regarding Teufaiva and possible matches and games allegedly lost due to uncertainties within the Union.

    “TRU agreed to ignore his critiques and be the bigger man and forgave his childish outbursts for the benefit of rugby union in Tonga.

    “’Ikale Tahi players should learn a lesson from the Mate Ma’a Tonga players.

    “There is hardly any complaint coming from their players regarding money, clothes etc. They gave up playing for New Zealand and Australia and sacrificed thousands to represent Tonga.

    “One can only look in admiration of them. Our ‘Ikale Tahi is the last resort for most of our players and yet some came in and acted as if Tonga Rugby Union is on the same level as New Zealand, Australia, England, Wales and the other super powers and rich nations of Rugby Union which have millions in financial resources.

    “I would urge our ‘Ikale Tahi players that they ought to be grateful and mindful that there were former players who gave everything to represent Tonga for the love of their country and to prove that there is more to life than money.”

    ‘Ikale Tahi coach Toutai Kefu told RNZ Vunipola was a hard man to track down and the former test front rower has not visited the team or attended any of the ‘Ikale Tahi’s recent matches.

    “I haven’t spoken to him for over 18 months. He doesn’t even come to any of the games, there’s no well-wishes,” he said.

    For more information

    Tonga defeats Fiji 27-19 in Lautoka


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