That's our money: Andrew Fifita on Tonga ban
ANDREW Fifita has revealed that he uncovered the financial irregularities that led to a boycott of the Tonga National Rugby League that has, in turn, seen the TNRL expelled by the International Rugby League.
The TNRL has a week to appeal the decision, but the verdict to kick them out has the potential to derail Tonga's incredible rise in the international game.
Fifita was one of a number of players who switched from Australia or New Zealand to Tonga ahead of the 2017 World Cup.
That culminated in a victory over the Kiwis in that tournament, but also laid the groundwork for the Tonga Invitational XIII to beat Great Britain and the Kangaroos last year.
Tonga played as an Invitational XIII owing to the fact the board of the TNRL had been suspended by the IRL - after attempting to sack popular coach Kristian Woolf - over allegations of bad governance.
That only came to light after the Sharks prop became aware of suggestions of the misappropriation of money that the Tongan players had handed over to the board in good faith
"God rest my pop's soul, I went over (to Tonga) for his funeral," Fifita told the Halfcast Podcast .
"When I came back I had an extra day on the island, and I sat down with every club team and asked them where's this money going to?
"They didn't know. And I just put it straight to them, I took offence because that's our money ... it's going to help us get to the next World Cup.
"I had to get across and preach and say what's going on with this.
"I think when all the coaching staff and that left that's where it all went haywire."
Fifita suggested that the Tonga board were spending money on lavish trips, and even paid for the rugby union sevens team to head overseas.
He also suggested that their plan to replace Woolf with Frank Endacott and Garth Brennan showed the TNRL could not be taken seriously.
"It was built on lies, that was the main thing," Fifita added.
"Most of that money in the account is from our World Cup tour, where instead of us taking it, we asked if [they] could keep it for future Tests.
"It went to physio or extra massages or that kind of stuff.
"Then there was money taken from the account, when we found out what it was for ... nobody takes $40,000 to $50,000 out for a penthouse, extra tickets ... you're meant to give back to all the grassroots!
"I read all the documents, the entire Nines team got showed the documents.
"And we were like, where's all this money keep transferring to?
"We paid for the Hong Kong (Tonga) sevens team - $80,000 to send the seven team to Hong Kong, and that's no disrespect to them, but that's meant to be for us!
"The worst thing was that they sacked our coach, training staff, physio, everyone who was a part of that 2017 team who actually got us on the rise.
"What I took offence to was they end up getting people (in) who weren't established in the coaching world."