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The Tonga Ma’a Tonga Rugby League (TMTRL) will apply for membership of the International Rugby League (IRL) after receiving unanimous backing to do so from the Tongan rugby league clubs that attended the TMTRL annual general meeting (AGM) on Friday 15 May.

Twenty-two rugby league clubs attended the meeting and recognised TMTRL as the governing body of rugby league in Tonga. They also voted unanimously that TMTRL apply immediately for membership of IRL, to resolve Tonga’s vacant position as a full member following the expulsion of the previous body in March.

Friday’s AGM saw the previous constitution repealed by a unanimous vote, and the adoption of a new constitution, including new compliance and guidelines at the request of clubs also adopted unanimously. It also saw the appointment of several key board roles for TMTRL.

Five director-nominees from Tonga’s registered rugby league clubs were unanimously voted onto the board of TMTRL, including one as deputy chair: Mr Sosaia Liufau (deputy chair), Mr Sosaia Penitani, Mr Matani Nifofa, Mr Pita Vakautakakala Ha’angana and Mr Vilisoni Tu’iniua Ngalu.

TMTRL received two nominations for the position of chair – Hon Semisi Sika, a member of parliament, and Lord Fakafanua, the speaker of the legislative assembly. The Hon. Semisi Sika was elected chair with Lord Fakafanua elected president. Mr John Paul Chapman was voted in unanimously as Finance and Compliance Director. These new board members will be joined by former captain Sika Manu and current national team player Will Hopoate as the two player directors who had been previously elected by the national team playing squad. TMTRL’s new chair declared he would call a board meeting at the earliest opportunity, at which a TMTRL patron would be determined.

Prior to the election for the position of Chair the Hon Semisi Sika spoke passionately to the clubs and referenced:

There must be sacrifices made by a board in line with the sacrifices our international players have made. This federation is not to be politicized as sport needs to be independent of that polarizing element. I am convinced that the future direction of Tongan rugby league is bright with this new board. Our attention is obviously to support to the best of our ability Kristian Woolf and our international team for success in the upcoming test as well as the World Cup next year. Our local scene also is to be bolstered to be able to provide better pathways for our players. I would like to thank the IRL and the IC for the great assistance they have provided in this process. We look forward to partnering with IRL and APRL to further the game of rugby league both locally and internationally.

Lord Fakafanua said: “As President I am compelled to move TMTRL in a sustainable and inclusive direction for the sport’s development in Tonga. With the support of Tonga’s international players, the local clubs and IRL. We have an insurmountable, yet achievable, task ahead of us.