Influential Tonga prop Andrew Fifita has joined a growing group threatening to stop playing for the Pacific nation over a dispute with the national board.
Tonga's emergence as an international powerhouse may be short-lived as players consider boycotting the upcoming World Cup 9s and Tests against Great Britain and Australia over a dispute that has cast doubts over the future of coach Kristian Woolf.
Former Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan is understood to have already been appointed to coach Mate Ma'a Tonga at the World Cup 9s and there are suggestions he could replace Woolf for the end-of-season Tests if the dispute isn't resolved quickly.
Players want the interim Tonga National Rugby League board to hold an election and are seeking the removal of chairman George Kolomatangi and secretary William Edwards.
In a post on Instagram on Friday morning, Fifita said the Mate Ma'a Tonga players were deserving of support.
"As players, we will not take part in the world 9s and the 2 test matches at the end of year," he said.
"Our terms are easy, get rid of these 2 men and we will play or Players will walk from the Team and bring a end to MMT."
Fifita's strong words came after fellow Test representatives Tevita Pangai jnr, SioSiua Taukeiaho, William Hopoate, Daniel Tupou, Manase Fainu, John Asiata, Tui Lolohea, Mahe Fonua and Sitili Tupouniua said they will not represent their nation until Kolomatangi and Edwards are removed from the board.
Some letters stated the players "do not support the interim board" and will only represent Tonga "after the current interim board has resigned and new board is elected with the best interest of Tongan Rugby League at heart".
The players' signed letters were posted on social by the team's culture leader John Hopoate.
The issue has been simmering for weeks, with Tim Sheens and Trent Barrett also linked to the coaching job, along with Brennan, but John Hopoate attempted to bring it to a head on Thursday by posting on social media that Woolf had been told to stand down.
Hopoate, whose son Will is the MMT captain, said he was acting as a spokesman for the players and they were writing letters to the TNRL board in support of Woolf, who is credited as the driving force behind the Tonga revolution.
Woolf helped convince Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita to choose Tonga over New Zealand and Australia at the 2017 World Cup and other players jumped on board as the team captured the imagination of fans, who ensured the success of the tournament by turning stadiums into a sea of red.
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John Hopoate said the players could make themselves available for Australia and New Zealand in the end-of-season Oceania Cup.
"If this interim board think that they can come in and do this after all the hard work we have done to get the players to play for Tonga and to stay loyal to us they have got another thing coming," Hopoate posted.
"Just finished speaking with the players and they are getting letters done up now. But if this board is still the board during the 9s and the two Tests at the end of the year, and as a spokesman for the players, we will NOT be taking any part in any of the games.
"They are talking about going back to Australia and NZ too."
NRL.com has contacted Kolomatangi, Woolf and Brennan for comment.
The RLPA has also been made aware of the situation with Clint Newton - the union's general manager of stakeholder relations - offering support to the playing group.
RLIF Southern Hemisphere general manager Jeremy Edwards said: "It's a matter for the Tongan board and we just hope this matter is resolved quickly."