Ex-Tonga Captain Afeaki steps down as Tonga Team Manager & joins PRPW Board

Pacific Rugby Players Welfare has been strengthened today with the inclusion of Inoke Afeaki to the PRPW Board. 

Inoke Afeaki at the 2007 Rugby World Cup -  Getty Images

Inoke Afeaki at the 2007 Rugby World Cup - Getty Images

Afeaki steps away from the job as Tongan Rugby Team manager, a post he held during this year’s Pacific Nations Cup campaign in June, to focus on his role as Director of Operations for the Tonga Amateur Sport and National Olympic Committee (TASANOC), helping develop all areas of Tongan sport in preparation for major games and competitions.

Of his time with Tonga Rugby, Afeaki said: “I couldn’t be more proud of any rugby achievement than being the Team Manager for the Ikale Tahi Team.  What an amazing group of people, well led by a real leader in Toutai Kefu. Everyone in the staff was 100% behind him and each other to make sure we stayed on track.”

After a public falling-out with Tonga Rugby CEO Feao Vunipola, Afeaki apologised to both the Tongan People and Vunipola himself, acknowledging social media 'is not the correct place to resolve these issues.'

“My dislike for bullies and politics in sport is something I will work on and we need to sit down and see where we agree and work on those issues.

“Joining the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare Board is one way for me to do that, as we seek to constantly improve standards and conditions for our vastly talented rugby players around the world.”

A message from Inoke Afeaki as he joins the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) Board.

Representing players in both Rugby Union and Rugby League, the PRPW organisation has fast become an important and credible voice on all issues affecting Pacific rugby and it’s players welfare, worldwide.

Non-reliant on National Union or World Rugby funding, the organisation is able to provide Pacific players with an independent and much needed avenue to voice concerns, challenge the hierarchy and push for improved standards using a coordinated and respectable approach.

Afeaki joins the prestigious PRPW Board, taking his place next to other high profile Tongans: Cooper Vuna, ex- All Blacks Charles Piutau & Sam Tuitupou, Wales based Ma’ama Molitika, France based Ephraim Taukafa and England based trio Viliami Ma’asi, Soane Tongauiha and another former Tonga captain Aleki Lutui.

Comprising of other male and female players from Samoa, Fiji and Wallis Futuna, the PRPW board are united with the common goal of tackling issues affecting Pacific rugby players, particularly in Europe where 75% of Professional Pacific players are now based.

PRPW Board Member Cooper Vuna in action for Bath Rugby -  Onside Images

PRPW Board Member Cooper Vuna in action for Bath Rugby - Onside Images

PRPW board member and Current Tongan International, Cooper Vuna welcomed the arrival of Afeaki which was announced at a recently convened board meeting in Bristol, England.

Of Afeaki’s appointment, Vuna said: “Having been a Tongan player and captain himself, Inoke understands all of the challenges and difficulties that we as Tongan rugby players experience.

“Inoke is someone who has always put his body on the line for the cause and for what’s right, both as a player and now as an administrator. It’s what PRPW is all about and its what Tonga rugby needs.” said Vuna.

Former Samoa International and PRPW Director Dan Leo reiterated Vuna’s words.

“Having someone of Inoke’s calibre, experience and most importantly: integrity, joining us in this fight is hugely up lifting.” said Leo.

“Our Pacific people need to be encouraged to speak up for what’s right in our community, and Inoke is a great example of someone willing to do so, even when it could cost him personally.

"Upstanding in both professionalism and character, we are excited about what he’ll bring to the organisation.”

NewsMark Sowerby