Broncos awaiting news on Tongan relatives

Troy Whittaker |

Fearing for the welfare of uncontactable relatives in Tonga, Brisbane NRL duo Kotoni Staggs and Tesi Niu can do little more than hope and pray as they wait for news.

Due to an internet outage following the volcanic blast that triggered a tsunami at the weekend, the Broncos players don’t know exactly how their extended families have been impacted.

Fellow Brisbane back Delouise Hoeter, a one-time Tongan international who lived on the island until he was six, said his mother’s family home was destroyed by the tsunami.

“It’s pretty much a waiting game with all communications down,” the former Wests Tigers centre said on Tuesday.

“We want to send our love and thoughts to them but they probably won’t see this at the moment.”

Melbourne and the Warriors will stage a Unite for Tonga NRL trial match at Casey Fields on February 19 to raise funds for affected communities.

Staggs, Niu and Hoeter have further pledged to help by auctioning their jerseys and boots used in round one of the NRL season.

“Hopefully, they can use their phones soon so we can find out if they’re all right or if anything has gone wrong with them,” said Staggs, who featured in a Tonga Invitational team’s famous win over Australia in 2019.

Niu described the tragedy as “heartbreaking”.

“The first thing my Mum was saying to me was wondering if her aunty (was OK),” Niu said.

“My aunty has two kids with her and she’s worried about if they’ve not eaten, where they’re sleeping, it’s going to be cold. We just don’t know yet.”

Staggs said Brisbane’s Tongan contingent had discussed the possibility of making an overseas trip sometime this year to assist with rebuilding.

Earlier on Tuesday, Storm chief executive Justin Rodksi said his club was “honoured” to join forces with the Warriors for the Unite for Tonga trial.

Tickets for the match will be available via Ticketmaster at noon on Friday with fans having the option to make a direct donation.

Players of Tongan descent including Felise Kaufusi, George Jennings, Addin Fonua-Blake, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak could feature in the pre-season fixture.

“The full details of the destruction and impact of the eruption on the people of Tonga is still unfolding, but we want to make sure we have done our bit to support the island community as they look to rebuild,” Rodski said.

“We hope the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors fans can dig deep to support the initiatives we have in place and that life in Tonga can return to normal as quickly as possible.”