Mate Ma’a Tonga have appointed former New Zealand coach Frank Endacott as their new leading man to take charge in the side’s end-of-season Tests against Great Britain and Australia.
Endacott will replace Kristian Woolf in what will be a new look coaching staff that will include Manu Vatuvei, Lesley Vainikolo and Duanne Mann.
Tongan National Rugby League chairman George Koloamatangi stated it was “time for a change” following Endacott’s appointment on Thursday, having praised Woolf for his tenure that saw a substantial rise within the national side.
Woolf’s exit comes amid public frustrations from the Tongan playing group, who threatened to boycott the upcoming Tests if Koloamatangi and secretary William Edwards weren’t removed from the board, while hoping Woolf would remain at the helm.
Endacott, who has previously coached the Warriors and Super League outfits Wigan and Widnes, is yet to speak with the Tongan playing group but believes he can field a commanding side for the Tests.
Endacott revealed his only hesitance on the move would have been if New Zealand were to come up against Tonga, as he presented the Kiwi players with their jerseys prior to the nations Tests between the two sides earlier this year in Auckland.
“It’s always a challenge to take on the top teams, and both Australia and Great Britain have been in the top echelon for years,” Endacott said.
“The Mate Ma’a Tonga players are world class and we see how good they are week in and week out in both the NRL and Super League. To have a chance to work with those players will be outstanding.”
Tonga faces Great Britain, coached by Wayne Bennett, on October 26th in Hamilton before their Oceania Cup clash against the Kangaroos at Eden Park on November 2nd, with Koloamatangi reassured that Endacott will bring a substantial amount of experience to his new role.
Endacott coach New Zealand between 1994 and 2000, and has also featured as a selector for the Kiwi’s.
“Frank had a long tenure as coach of the NZ Kiwis, and has coached the NZ Warriors in the NRL competition and Wigan in the English Super League,” Koloamatangi said.
Former Titans coach Garth Brennan will coach Tonga at the World Cup 9’s in October at Bankwest Stadium, joining Mann, Vainikolo and Vatuvei.
Mann arrives as the side’s football director, while Vainikolo joins as an assistant trainer and Vatuvei will look to strengthen the nations outside backs as a skills coach.