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Auckland, NEW ZEALAND – February 18, 2020: 9am (RNZI): The International Rugby League board has expelled Tonga from the sport’s governing body, the latest move in a long-running battle over governance, money and a threatened player boycott.

The Tonga National Rugby League has been suspended since October, after it sacked national head coach Kristian Woolf over disagreements around control and finances, which led players to threaten a boycott of the World Cup 9s and end of season tests.

Tonga celebrates their win against Australia at the final whistle, during the rugby league match between the Australian Kangaroos and Tonga Invitational XIII at Eden Park, Auckland. 02 November 2019

Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

International Rugby League recommended a package of reforms for the sport in Tonga in December, at the end of a two-month investigation into the operation and governance of the game in the country.

At the time, global operations manager Danny Kazandjian said: “It was evident that the current governance model was capable of improvement to reflect the current circumstances of Tonga”.

Thirty days of consultation ended in January and, in a statement, International Rugby League confirmed a resolution had been passed at a board meeting on Thursday to expel Tonga NRL from the membership.

“The directors carefully considered the position of Tonga National Rugby League (TNRL), which has been suspended since October 2019, in the light of a wide-ranging consultation with stakeholders in the Tongan game.

“After that meeting, the Board wrote to TNRL, advising them of the resolution passed at that meeting, which is to expel TNRL from the membership.”

Tonga rugby league has one week to appeal the board’s decision. Should it choose to do so, the matter will be decided by the members in general meeting.

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