Kaniva News Commentary
The expulsion of Tonga by the International Rugby League is a shameful development.
The Tonga National Rugby League has now announced it will appeal the expulsion.
However, rather than prolonging this shameful farce, the TNRL’s leadership should resign en masse so a clean start can be made and the kingdom’s world class players can be backed up by a committee that is judged by the IRL to meet international standards.
The TRNL was suspended in October after it sacked national head coach Kristian Woolf and players threatened a boycott of the World Cup Nines and end of season tests.
The International Rugby League recommended a package of reforms for the sport in Tonga in December at the end of a two-month investigation into how the game was run in the country.
TNRL Secretary William Edwards’ response to the proposed reforms was not helpful.
“This is being imposed against our will by a group of idiots that don’t know what is going on in Tonga, who think they know what is best for Tonga, and impose their will without our consultation, without our right to have a say, and they’re basically saying ‘we’re going to change you whether you like it or not’,” WIlliams said.
“Our association has been running since 1988, and we’ve put teams on the paddock since 1988 with great success and then all of a sudden he feels we’re doing something wrong that needs to be changed.
“What a joke.”
However, the IRL’s investigation was not a joke. It was carried out in response to concerns from, among others, the then acting Prime Minister Semisi Sika, the Tonga Sports Council, the Rugby Football League, the Australian Rugby League Commission and the Rugby League Players Association.
For Edwards to respond in this way was tempting fate.
What was needed was a very public admission of failure over many years and a complete resignation of the existing board and a lifetime ban on them ever returning so that there could be a complete re-booting of the game in Tonga.
By pushing Tongan Rugby League onto the world stage, Tonga’s Rugby League players, whether playing officially as the Mate Ma’a or not, have kept faith with their fans
Many fans, sadly, will think the TRNL board did not.