The Ministry of Sports said a reconciliation process had been initiated to bring together rugby league players and officials after the bitter feud that marred Tonga’s participation in the 2019 Oceania Cup.

CEO Fotu Fisi’iahi said the process would not be part of this Friday’s celebrations, a day which has been officially declared as a public holiday in Tonga to celebrate the historic Test triumph over the Kangaroos. .

He said it was important for all parties to reconcile because of the future of the rugby league and they are expected to return to the negotiation table after the celebrations.

Tonga was the first two-tier nation to defeat Australia.

Thirty six members of the successful team together with their wives and officials began arriving in Tonga this week.

The government has offered to pay for their travel and accommodation expenses.

Photos circulated on social media showed fans have painted some of the players’ images on vehicles.

It has been reported that tomorrow Thursday 14 the team are expected to attend a reception at the royal villa in Tufumahina.

Friday’s celebrations are expected to include a parade from Tu’imatamoana waterfront to Teufaiva National Stadium.

Fisi’iahi denied claims the government met and arranged with the Tonga National Rugby League interim board to organise the welcoming event.

Dr Fisi’iahi responded after an outrage erupted online last week with rugby league fans supporting threats from the players that they would not come to Tonga this Friday if it was true the World League’s suspended Tonga interim board took part in organising the event.

Tonga’s National Rugby League interim board has been suspended by the international governing body after Tonga’s top players such as Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita initially threatened to boycott the Oceania Cup unless action was taken against the TNRL.

The feud escalated after the TNRL sacked popular coach Kristian Woolf over disagreements around control and finances.

The newly established league body Tonga Ma’a Tonga is now the legal body authorised by the government and World Rugby League to take care of the sport in Tonga.

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