Explosive letter details Tongan boycott plan
This is the letter that sparked an international rugby league row.
Sent to every major pillar of the international game, including NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg, RLIF CEO Nigel Wood and the RLPA, the four-page letter obtained by The Sunday Telegraph offers explicit detail as to why the Tongan players want to boycott all upcoming fixtures.
It spells out the irreparable distrust between the Tongan playing group and their board of directors and includes claims that money set aside for the growth and development of Tongan rugby league has never been distributed.
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Written on behalf of the entire Tongan playing squad and penned by co-captains Jason Taumalolo and Sio Siua Taukeiaho and senior players Will Hopoate, Andrew Fifita and Manu Ma'u, the letter written last month also calls for the game's figureheads' help to reinstate their sacked coaching staff.
"This letter is to state that we, the players representing Mate Ma'a Tonga, do not support the current TNRL Board of Directors led by Chairman George Koloamatangi and Secretary William Edwards,'' the letter reads.
"If the above-mentioned members are not removed at the upcoming AGM, we will be withdrawing from the World Nines to be played in October 2019 and considering our position for the upcoming Tests against Great Britain and Australia.''
The letter explains why the player demands aren't based on money.
"We want to continue to give the Island of Tonga a national sporting team they can be proud of,'' the letter states.
"We take great pride knowing that we have played a huge part in increasing the profile of Tonga through our achievements on and off the playing field.
"Through these choices to represent Tonga most of the players have made sacrifices and given up opportunities to play for other countries.
"Collectively as a team we would have sacrificed close to $500,000 in match earnings yearly to play for Tonga.
"Our motives are not driven by money. We are willing to continue to make sacrifices, as our families have done, to represent the country we love and identify with.
BREAKING: Andrew Fifita seeks counsel of PM of Tonga amid potential player boycott of international game - inc World Cup 9s due to player-board dispute. @tongaNRL @telegraph_sport https://t.co/hp7qqmOTis— David Riccio (@DaveRic1) September 5, 2019
"We do however need to ensure that our sacrifice is matched and acknowledged by the people who are appointed to the Board of the TNRL."
The letter also claims that money has not been spent in the way the board had promised.
"We also made it clear that we support a percentage of money we raise going back to Tonga to assist with growing the game at grassroots level.
"We made it very clear that we wanted to know where that money went, who was responsible for it and some accountability that the money was spent in the right areas. Most importantly we were promised communication and transparency around this.
"We have been informed that approximately $55K Australian dollars has been used or removed from the ARLC account by the Board and not used on our team.
"This is not acceptable, and it goes directly against what we were promised and has been done.''
The letter concludes with a vow to boycott all upcoming International fixtures if the two board members aren't removed.
"We require an AGM date to be set and a fair AGM to occur before our NRL season is finished at the beginning of October,'' the letter reads. "We also expect a change to the current Chairman and Secretary.
"We will not be participating in the World Nines and will consider doing the same for the Oceania Cup if the above has not occurred.
"This is not the course of action we want to take but we feel we have been backed into a position of no return."