Asia Pacific Rugby League has received an application for full membership from Tonga Ma’a Tonga Rugby League.
The application will now be reviewed by the APRL board and then progress to the board of International Rugby League (IRL) before being sent to the IRL full members for final approval.
The TMTRL application signals the dissolution of the implementation committee which was formed by three members of the Tongan rugby league community who volunteered to assist an APRL representative to facilitate Tonga’s smooth return to the world stage as an IRL member.
IRL global operations manager Danny Kazandjian said: “I would like to sincerely thank the members of the implementation committee, Gareth Holmes, Konrad Hurrell, Suliana Mone and Ikani Taliai.
“They managed to bring together several parties who had an interest in Tongan rugby league and helped them form a coherent group, under mutually acceptable rules, structure and leadership.
“The IC achieved that with great professionalism and skill whilst working under close media scrutiny, especially in Tonga.”
The previous member has appealed against its expulsion to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. IRL has responded fully and will keep it under consideration whilst assessing the new application.
Elsewhere, the Rugby League European Federation’s Middle East Africa section has received three applications from African nations – Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria – to move from observer to affiliate status.
Kazandjian said: “It’s encouraging to see the sport gaining traction in west Africa and when a member receives affiliate status on that continent it will be historic as it allows them to enter into the World Cup qualification process.
“We are dealing with all three applicants to ensure their organisations are as robust as possible before they take this significant next step.”
All three nations played their first official internationals last year, in Lagos at the MEA Championship, paving the way for their applications.
These applications, and others that are being actively prepared from countries in three continents, assist IRL in its quest to become a full member of the Global Association of International Sports Federations, (GAISF).
Kazandjian concluded: “We need to achieve 40 approved rugby league nations recognised by their own government or Olympic Committees.
“GAISF currently validates 24 of our members, from a start point in 2018 of 15 nations. I am cautiously optimistic that by the end of the year we will have reached 26 nations, at least.”
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