Tonga’s women’s national team have headed to Australia for a high-performance training camp, ahead of the fast-approaching OFC Women’s Nations Cup, and have received a royal seal of approval for the trip.

With help via a grant from the Australian High Commission, the Tonga squad flew out to Australia on Thursday, April 21, arriving at their base in Sydney the following day.

Tonga will spend a total of three weeks in Sydney, where they will face two international friendlies against the Philippines and games against local academy sides.

They will then travel back to Brisbane for the final week of the camp, with another game potentially on the cards in Queensland, before flying back to Tonga on Wednesday, May 18.

The opportunity to gather as a team has been a long time coming for Tonga. The group have not trained since January 15 due to the impact of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami, followed by COVID-19 related lockdowns.

Therefore, there was some understandable rust in their first game of the training camp against tough opposition. Tonga lost 16-0 to the Philippines, who have already qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, in a friendly match last Friday just hours after setting foot in Australia.

As Tonga’s head of women’s football Adelaide Tu’ivailala explains, the result was expected and not important. Much-needed match fitness is the main goal from the fixtures during their Australia stay.

“This is part of our plan in our final preparation for the upcoming OFC Women’s Nations Cup is to conduct a high-performance training camp out of Tonga,” says Tu’ivailala.

“This camp in Sydney will form a critical component of the team’s preparation efforts.”

As well as the friendly fixtures, Tonga’s women will be going through tactical training sessions and individual skill sessions to best prepare for the upcoming OFC Women’s Nations Cup, which also act as a qualifier for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The importance of the Australia training camp was underlined when the team were recently paid a royal visit. HRH Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Tuku’aho of Tonga, who is also the Royal Patron of the Tonga Football Association, visited the team at their Valentine Sports Park base in Sydney earlier this week.

She met with each of the players and commended them on their dedication to representing their country.

Tonga will next face the Philippines again on Saturday, April 30, as they continue their preparations for July’s OFC Women’s Nations Cup.