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Australian Rugby League boss out to end Mate Ma'a Tonga boycott threats

ARLC boss Peter Beattie will seek to finally bring an end to the Tongan players' boycott by pushing the country's national rugby league body to appoint a new board in a move that's also expected to scupper Israel Folau's return.

Beattie will join a teleconference of the game's global bosses on Thursday night in his role as Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) deputy chairman. And Tonga's plight is expected to be the top priority.

Up to 30 Tonga players - led by Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo - remain locked in a bitter dispute with their country's board, desperately pushing for the removal of chairman George Kolomatangi and secretary William Edwards.

They also want Kristian Woolf reinstated as coach after he drove their rise from minnow to Pacific powerhouse, or else they threaten to boycott the end-of-year Tests and Nines.

It's understood Woolf remains open to coaching Tonga again if approached, and is ready to vehemently deny any accusations from the current board that he misused team funds in an account monitored by the NRL and RLIF.

A letter from the country's interim Prime Minister, Semisi Sika, will also be presented to the RLIF board calling for the removal of Tongan management.

The issue has come to a head this week, with the current administration unveiling their plans to name Folau for the Tests against Australia and Great Britain.

Beattie has previously ruled out any potential Folau return to the NRL, following his dispute with Rugby Australia (RA) over anti-gay social media posts.

"This story has been bent out of shape. This is a disagreement in Tonga about Tongan issues," Beattie told AAP 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."

There is a feeling among many that Tonga's recent naming of Folau is a last- ditch powerplay to secure their control of the game in the country.

They initially claimed in a statement that the RLIF had approved Folau's return, only for the governing body to deny that hours later on Monday.

A subsequent Tonga statement then insisted the RLIF had no grounds to block Folau's return, and reaffirmed the desire to play him.

It's believed the RLIF has the power to refute a current board and appoint an interim in their place, which is a scenario likely to be discussed at Thursday's meeting.

However if they are removed it appears unlikely the former Melbourne and Brisbane star will be selected by the new administration to renew his rugby league career.

Folau remains in a battle with over his termination following the posts in May, with RA on Wednesday claiming he'd been willing to apologise for the comments at the time.

Meanwhile the situation in Tonga is equally convoluted.

Former Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan this week confirmed he'd pulled out of coaching the team at the nines, as he attempted to avoid the mess.

Frank Endacott has since been appointed as Woolf's replacement, but players are adamant they want the situation resolved immediately with their old coach back.

"Hopefully it gets sorted as soon as it can," veteran Siliva Havili said.

"The games are getting closer and a lot of the boys have already stopped playing (for the season)."

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The 71-year-old takes over from the sacked Kristian Woolf. Source: 1 NEWS


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