Tonga head coach supports plans for end-of-season international calendar

Kristian Woolf St Helens

Tonga head coach Kristian Woolf backs the idea of an end-of-season international calendar.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo revealed his plans earlier last week about the potential set calendar for international fixtures.

State of Origin is set to return to three Wednesday games from 2023 due to a new broadcast deal. It means the NRL season will no longer have a break for international Tests.

Abdo said that the NRL are working through the season structure for next year. He stated it ‘makes sense’ to have a dedicated international window following the success of the recent Tests Down Under.

One man who has backed the idea is St Helens and Tonga boss in Woolf. 

The 46-year-old said that international fixtures were irregular and uncertain at the beginning of his Tonga role, but the international game should be used to help grow the sport.

READ: Wayne Bennett hits out at ‘crazy’ decision to scrap mid-season Tests

Tonga boss backs international calendar plans

Woolf told Love Rugby League: “I really like the sound of what Andrew Abdo [NRL CEO] said in terms of wanting to make a window at the end of the year that’s dedicated to international footy. 

“If we’re going to grow our sport, international footy is a big part of that. 

“International footy brings in a crowd like what we saw in New Zealand a few weeks ago, which was an outstanding atmosphere and an outstanding crowd.

“You don’t necessarily get that sort of passion or that sort of atmosphere in a club game.

“But it also brings more eyes on our sport and new eyes on our sport and it has the potential to do that all over the world.

“If we’re going to grow our sport, international footy is a big part of that”

“So I think we need to harness that. I think we need to have some sort of calendar and some sort of window. And the end of the year is the best time to do that. 

“I would certainly see positives around keeping the mid-year Tests. But when Origin changes, you won’t have that standalone weekend where club footy is not on. It becomes really hard to justify a mid-season game in amongst the season. 

“And I’ve said plenty of times, one thing we will always need to have at the forefront of our minds is how we look after our players, and particularly how we look after the best players who are the ones involved in international footy. 

“If there’s a really good calendar at the end of the year, and there’s a bit of quality there in terms of teams like Tonga being a big part of that and being able to have those opportunities to play bigger, meaningful games and we’ve got to sacrifice mid-season Tests to do that, then I’m comfortable with it.”

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About Josh McAllister 1679 Articles
Journalist. Joined the Love Rugby League team full time at the start of 2022 having been a freelance reporter for several years. Previously media manager for Swinton and Rochdale.

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