Mentor prepares to steer Tonga
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.
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