Volcanic eruption could be inspiration for Tonga’s rugby league players in World Cup

Last weekend’s volcanic eruption could be an inspiration for the nation’s rugby league team.

Speaking from the UK, Tonga’s coach Kristian Woolf told the Sydney Morning Herald the eruption would motivate the team to “try and put a smile on the locals’ faces” when they played in the World Cup at the end of the year.

Woolf said he and several players, including Konrad Hurrell, had still not been in contact with their families in Tonga.

As we reported yesterday, Tonga has faced severe communications problems, with the undersea cable cut in two places and only very limited satellite communication.

“I know a lot of people over there, I’ve spoken to a number of players who have a lot of close family in Tonga, but nobody has been able to have any contact at this stage – the worst thing is not knowing anything,” Woolf said.

He said news about the eruption was devastating.

“You can only hope everyone has got to higher ground,” Woolf said.

“You hope everything is alright, and everyone is in your thoughts, but not having that contact at the moment makes it really difficult.”

“All the players have either parents or siblings, grandparents, aunties and uncles living there – they have all been affected and are hoping for the best.

“The reason the players make the sacrifices they do to play for Tonga is the chance to make their families proud.

“The time will come to represent Tonga at the World Cup, and hopefully we can put some smiles on their faces.”

Tonga, whose last Test was the historic win over Australia, will have a warm-up game against France in France before the World Cup, which will begin in England at the end of October.

Relief for victims

There has been talk among some rugby league  players about putting together a relief package for victims.

Tongan rugby union player Malakai Fekitoa, who plays for the Wasps in the UK, has launched a fundraising drive.

Ha’api-born Fekitoa, who has not been able to contact his mother in Tonga, is raising  money to buy essential products.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to communicate with my mother and all my family who are there,” Fekitoa wrote on GoFundMe. “I am making this collection in first person cause I want to make sure that all the aid destined is received by the community.

“We need to send essential products, so we will send as many containers as possible from Auckland to Tonga.”

Fekitoa the next ship was due to leave Auckland for Tonga is on January 22.

More than 130 donations have already been made including from current and former Wasps players.

The main points

  • Tongan rugby league and union players in the UK are anxious to contact their families.
  • Players from both codes are planning action to support victims of the eruption.
  • Kristian Woolf, who coaches Tonga’s national team, said the eruption could be an inspiration for the Tongan side in this year’s World cup.

For more information

‘Worst thing is not knowing’: Tongan players’ agonising wait for contact from loved ones


Tonga tsunami: Wasps ace Malakai Fekitoa launches fundraiser for home nation




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