Tonga under-18's men's rugby sevens team are seeking financial support to make it to the World Schools Sevens tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, on 14th and 15th December.
The under-18's division was set up - independently to Tonga Rugby Union - in December 2017 by Will Hafu, John Edwards and a small team of former professional rugby players living in Tonga, who recognised that raw young talent was going to waste and should be encouraged and developed. Before this team, there were no internationally-competing teams other than the adult teams.
The team has nothing to do with the Tonga Rugby Union and therefore gets NO funding from the TRU, the schools, or any professional bodies in Tonga. All funding for the team is therefore raised before each tournament by Will, John and the other coaches by personally reaching out to local businesses and asking for support. Unfortunately, as it is currently the end of the financial year, most businesses in Tonga have already used their financial budget for charitable causes and are unable to donate to this cause.
International tournaments like these are vital to the development of our young Tongan rugby players, as it gives them experience of playing on an international level against high standard teams such as New Zealand and Australia, and demonstrates exactly what they need in order to succeed.
The team are hoping to compete in the Oceania Rugby 7's qualifiers next year, which, if successful, could lead to Youth Olympic qualification.
Besides succeeding in these tournaments, the opportunity alone to compete abroad at a high level is invaluable to the youth of Tonga. It gives them achievable goals to work towards, insight into opportunities outside of Tonga and hope. Because of a rise in alcohol and substance abuse in Tonga, it is incredibly important to keep these kinds of opportunities going for the kids that may not otherwise get the opportunity to.