Rugby league: Tonga to appeal international suspension

The Tongan National Rugby League (TNRL) will appeal the suspension handed down by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF). 

On Thursday, during a phone conference, the RLIF board suspended the membership of TNRL, which lost the support of its star players, after it sacked national coach Kristian Woolf.

Key players, including Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita, threatened to boycott upcoming tests against Australia and Great Britain, unless TNRL chairman George Koloamatangi and secretary William Edwards were removed from office.

The world league body is expected to endorse the Tonga Ma'a Tonga Rugby League, which is backed by the Tongan Sports Council, and supported by players and Tongan Government.

TNRL insists it has been unfairly treated.

"TNRL has prepared court proceedings and will be filing a legal challenge, to challenge the appointment of the Tonga Sports Council as the body responsible for rugby league matters in Tonga," says the deposed board.

"The TNRL board feel let down by the governing body, where at no time did any person request information, seek evidence, nor did anyone interview any member of this board or our accountant or auditor to arrive at the recent findings. 

"It is a concern that the RLIF suspended us as a member nation and now seeks to investigate the TNRL.

"The board of TNRL has not been accorded natural justice throughout this whole saga, individuals of this board have been publicly maligned and the subject of salacious comment, where the announcement of a suspension and investigation merely adds to the stigma of wrongdoing, rather than affording us the constitutional right in our country of the presumption of innocence." 

The TNRL also issued a "word of warning", saying that Woolf would not be the coach of the team going forward. 

Two weeks ago, Frank Endacott was announced as the Tonga coach, replacing Woolf, but Newshub understands that he may relinquish that role, with former Tonga and Kiwis captain Duane Mann taking over.

Earlier this week, former Kiwis assistant Garth Brennan stood down as coach for the upcoming World Cup Nines, due to political infighting.

Woolf has been named head coach of St Helens in England's Super League. 

The NRL supports the RLIF's decision to suspend TNRL's membership. 

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