Men­tor pre­pares to steer Tonga

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - MICHAEL THOMPSON michael. thompson@ news. com. au

TOWNSVILLE Bl a c khawks coach Kris­tian Wolf can feel the Rugby League World Cup edg­ing closer.

Woolf’s rugby league sea­son will be far from fin­ished at the end of this year’s Queens­land Cup cam­paign, with the re­spected men­tor hop­ing to guide Tonga through a suc­cess­ful World Cup cam­paign start­ing on Oc­to­ber 27.

Woolf has coached the Pa­cific Is­land na­tion since 2015 and has NRL stars such as So­saia Feki, Kon­rad Hur­rell and Daniel Tupou in the in­ter­na­tional arena.

Tonga have been drawn in Group B against New Zealand, Samoa and Scot­land, ar­guably the tough­est pool.

Tonga will go into the tour­na­ment hav­ing beaten Fiji 28- 24 in this year’s Pa­cific Test.

“It seems like it’s a long way off but it catches up on you re­ally quickly,” Woolf said.

“We’re ob­vi­ously ex­cited about the squad we’re go­ing to be able to put to­gether, ev­ery­one’s healthy.

“We won’t be play­ing in Townsville, but we do get to play a trial game in In­n­is­fail and then a game in Cairns be­fore trav­el­ling over to New Zealand.”

NRL tal­ents in­clud­ing Hur­rell and Tupou have been in­cluded in Woolf’s pre­lim­i­nary 40- man squad, as new rep­re­sen­ta­tive el­i­gi­bil­ity rules al­low players who have rep­re­sented top- tier na­tions like Aus­tralia and New Zealand to play for tier- two coun­tries.

“We’ve had a few guys who would have cer­tainly been in the squad or round­abouts un­for­tu­nately out for the year, players like Pat Kau­fusi, Tony Wil­liams, Jorge Tau­fua.

“That’s the un­for­tu­nate side of footy, but the good thing with the new rules is we’ve got a lot more depth than we’ve had in the past.

“We still have to see what the dam­age is in terms of Aus­tralia and New Zealand pick­ing their full 24- man squads, and that will im­pact on sides like us a lit­tle bit.

“But I’m still pretty con­fi­dent we’re go­ing to come up with a re­ally good squad with if plenty of depth.” Tonga play Scot­land in their open­ing game of the World Cup on Oc­to­ber 29 and then take on Samoa in Hamil­ton, New Zealand on Novem­ber 4.

They play in Hamil­ton again on Novem­ber 11 against the home na­tion, which last won the World Cup in 2008.

“From past ex­pe­ri­ences it’s a game our blokes re­ally look for­ward to,” Woolf said of play­ing against the Ki­wis.

“There’s a lot of Ton­gan players who have played for Tonga in the past who will be play­ing for New Zealand as well.”

Woolf still firmly has his Black­hawks hat on ahead of this week­end’s im­por­tant away game against Burleigh, but when it comes time for World Cup duty he says there is noth­ing quite like be­ing part of Tonga’s pas­sion­ate team cul­ture.

“Just the way they ac­cept and look after each other once we get to­gether as a group, and also the way they do that for staff makes it so much fun,” he said.

Sim­ply tip the win­ning teams and you win the jack­pot!

THRILLED: Tonga coach Kris­tian Woolf with the Rugby League World Cup. Pic­ture: SCOTT RADFORD- CHISHOLM

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.