Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

On a Mission

Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

On a Mission

Article excerpt

Byline: JOEL GOULD

CHARLES Tonga's dedication to preaching the word about rugby league in his native Tonga has already produced spectacular results.

You hear plenty of talk from officials about the need to foster rugby league internationally but the new Swifts player is putting his money where his mouth is.

The church pastor and former NRL forward has been to the island nation of Tonga several times to promote the game in recent months and financed last year's Pacific and Indigenous Challenge Cup.

Tonga owns employment agency 'Tough Yards' with business partner Peter Poloua and the pair funded the Pacific Cup without any outside assistance.

The tournament has quadrupled in size under Tonga's guidance. Last year it was held at Wacol and eight teams - PNG, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Tokelau, Cook Islanders, New Zealand Maori and Australian Indigenous - competed in under-20s and under-16s.

"The year before last there was only Tonga and Samoa but last year we had eight nations and 10,000 people rocked up to watch and there were plenty of scouts there too. Two more nations want to jump on board this year," Tonga said.

"We selected 20 (representative) players out of the squad last year and six of them have gone on - a couple of them to the West Tigers and two of them to the Titans.

"Me and my business partner have a passion for rugby league and we are using this as a model in Tonga so the kids can have a future and a career. The NRL should be looking at things like this and hopefully in a few years, someone else will come on board."

Tonga has also contributed to the growth of league in his ancestral home and aims to bring players out to Australia to further their careers on and off the field. "I will soon be spending eight days in Tonga in the schools and with clinics," he said.

"It is a third world country over there so we have bought tackling bags and got other equipment off (former Australian player) Jim Dymock and his brother so we can go back and run the clinics.

"They don't have half of the facilities that we have over here but the kids over in Tonga are raw talents. They are just waiting for the opportunities. …

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