Andrew Johns helps Tongan national team

EIGHTH Immortal Andrew Johns has offered his services to Tonga for free in a bid to help the emerging nation attract and develop talent.

Johns will take on a mentoring role with the Tongan side after reaching out to assistant coach David Tangata-Toa.

The legendary halfback played with David’s brother Andrew at the Knights in the mid-90s and through the friendship made enquires to assist Tonga in the lead-up to the Polynesian Cup against Samoa at Pirtek Stadium on May 7.

Johns said his motivation to link with Tonga was purely to make a difference on the international stage.

“I just like to help out the Pacific island nations,” Johns said.

“They provide so many players in the NRL and also in the Under 20s.

“Andrew (Tangata-Toa) is a good friend of mine and his brother David is on the coaching staff, so it was a general chat with Andrew and I and it just sort of went from there.

“I’ll pop into training a couple of times and give them a hand I’m really looking forward to it.”

Johns has always been passionate about seeing the international game grow, evidence through his trips to Fiji to uncover talent alongside former NSW and Australian teammate Brad Fittler.

He recently expressed his strong opinion on the plight of the Pacific Nations on The Sunday Footy Show by saying: “If we gave them more incentive to play for their countries, they’d be almost unbeatable.”

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf couldn’t be happier to have Johns on board to primarily work with the team’s halves.

“It’s a great thing for Tonga to have Joey involved,” Woolf said.

“It’s a real positive story and a positive sign of Joey as a bloke that he is willing to do that.

“He is not Tongan heritage, so he hasn’t got any invested interest in that way.

“Joey just expressed a desire to help out and between him and Dave (Tangata-Toa) they’ve come up with a bit of a verbal agreement.

“We just need to sit down to work out the logistics of what he can and can’t do with his other roles on Television and at the Roosters as a halves coach.

“But it’s completely Joey’s doing and he offered his services, so we will make it happen.”

Woolf hopes the presence of Johns will also help convince emerging Tongan players to represent their country instead of taking the big money on offer from New Zealand.

“Hopefully it will encourage guys to play for Tonga, which is a great thing,” he said.

“We are going to be young in the halves no matter what, so our intentions with it are to help those guys develop.

“Joey can certainly do that, plus any promotion that we can get for how we are trying to improve Tongan rugby league would be massive.”

Daily Telegraph

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