The last time Australia were beaten by a new rugby league country, rock and roll was yet to be born.
World rugby league bosses will decide on Thursday whether to force a change to Tonga’s board in a call that could influence Israel Folau’s playing hopes.
Israel Folau’s planned rugby league return could be over before it even begins as both his fate and that of Tonga’s board rests in the hands of a Thursday night teleconference.
The mess surrounding the country’s national team is set to be the top priority in a phone hook up of Rugby League International Federation directors on Thursday.
Just three weeks out from the international season, up to 30 Tongan players are still threatening to boycott the end-of-year Tests and World Nines.
Unhappy with the current board, the players – led by Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo – want a change in management and Kristian Woolf reinstated as coach.
ARL Commission boss Peter Beattie confirmed on Wednesday he would back the players’ push in Thursday’s meeting, as part of his role as deputy chair of the RLIF.
Folau’s football future also remains a key part of the drama.
The decision to announce his return for Tonga has been seen as many as a last-ditch power play by the current board.
If they are removed, the cross-code star may not form part of the new board’s plans and the push for his return will be over.
Beattie has previously closed the door shut on any possible return to the NRL by Folau, believing his controversial social media posts do not fit the league’s inclusiveness policy.
But regardless, the ARLC boss said his push would be acting only in the best interests of the boycotting players when he pushed for change on Tongan board.
“This story has been bent out of shape. This is a disagreement in Tonga about Tongan issues,” Beattie said on Wednesday.
“I will support the Tongan NRL players. It is that simple, and I make no apology for that. My loyalty is to rugby league.”
It’s believed Woolf would be ready to resume his role as coach if called upon next month, with Tests against Great Britain and Australia to follow the Nines.
It comes after interim Tongan Prime Minister Semisi Sika wrote to the RLIF this week pushing for the removal of the country’s chairman George Kolomatangi and secretary William Edwards
It’s understood the RLIF believe they have the power to fulfil that request if they wish.
One option could include even include deregistering the current Tongan body and acknowledging another in their place.
However even that could be met with problems, given the Tonga’s current board have shown no signs of standing down throughout the current dispute.
Prime Minister Sika meanwhile held a largely honoury position on the previous board, acting as the president when they were sacked in January by the Tongan Supreme Court.
Regardless, the whole drama has the potential to undo the revolution of the international game, after the likes of Fifita and Taumalolo joined Tonga for the 2017 World Cup and kickstarted a Pacific movement.