14 August, 2017. Tonga Rugby League is confident of raising some added income to boost their preparations for the World Cup later this year.
Mate Ma'a Tonga head coach Kristian Woolf said a lot of behind the scenes work has been going on to generate more money via sponsorship and support from the government.
He said having the World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere is helpful for Pacific nations while there is extra money up for grabs from the government after the Kingdom pulled out of hosting the 2019 Pacific Games.
"It means that we're a little bit close to home and a little bit more seen, I suppose, and in the public eye as well," he said.
"When it comes to support and sponsorship and all that kind of thing that certainly helps - when you're over on the other side of the world you're a little bit out of sight out of mind I think".
"We'd love to go take the team to Tonga firstly and it's really important that our players that are based in Australia and New Zealand have a real connection to the people they're playing for and vice versa, that the people in Tonga know who they are cheering for and who they are supporting.
"That's a really big expense obviously getting a full team over there".
Kristian Woolf said World Cup organisers cover the cost of motels and meals and the "raw basics" for each country but a bit of extra money would make a big difference to their campaign.
"There's only eight staff included in that which if you look at most NRL teams carry between 10 and 12 staff on a normal weekend, just to make sure things are done professionally," he said.
"Eight is an absolute bare minimum and Australia and New Zealand will carry up to 14 so a little bit of extra income means that we can bring some specialist staff along, that obviously are going to help with our preparations, and help the players be at their absolute best.
"It means we can also do things the players usually enjoy in a normal week [with their clubs] like massages and supplements - all those things that come at our expense that without money we just aren't able to provide for our players".
Kristian Woolf said, while they can't compete financially with the likes of Australia and New Zealand, they are also hoping to boost players' pay packets for the World Cup campaign, to ensure the squad feels appreciated for their efforts.
The World Cup kicks off at the end of October, with Tonga's opening match against Tonga in Cairns.