The Mate Ma’a Tonga rugby league team will gain an injection of experience and youth in their
coaching ranks for the upcoming Test against the New Zealand Kiwis.
With head coach Kristian Woolf unable to travel to Auckland because of English Super League
duties, Dean Young will take over as caretaker head coach for the one-off Test.
He will be supported by one of the greatest of all time, with grand final supremo and new
Dolphins NRL coach Wayne Bennett to be his coaching advisor during the week-long
preparation for the Test.
Former Tongan player Sika Manu will also be on the coaching staff.
Woolf, who has won the past two English Super League grand finals with St Helens, will remain
as head coach for the World Cup that will kick off in England in October.
Woolf has been in charge of the Mate Ma’a Tonga since their giant-killing run to the semi-finals
of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, and oversaw victories in 2019 over both the Australian
Kangaroos and Great Britain.
Woolf will still be part of the team selection process and confer closely with the staff that will
deputise for him in the June 25 match against the Kiwis.
“My commitment to St Helens and the inability of the representative and international weeks
to line up in the two hemispheres means it is not possible to be in New Zealand for a week
during the Super League season,” said Woolf.
“But we have been able to put together an amazing coaching staff with Dean, Wayne and Sika.
“Dean has been an assistant on the Tongan team previously, and is one of the brightest young
coaching prospects in the NRL. Sika was the captain of this team through a golden period, and
understand the passion of the Mate Ma’a Tonga.
“And no-one has had more success in coaching rugby league than Wayne Bennett – having him
there will be a great experience for both the players and the staff.
“This is a strong coaching staff for what will ultimately be a new-look Tongan team missing
some players from the English Super League, who will be playing an important international
Test while competing for spots in the World Cup squad.”
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