Veteran league administrator and Kiwis campaign manager Shane Richardson has thrown his support behind under-fire coach David Kidwell and is calling on fans to follow suit.
Richardson, who has spent 40 years working in league including a long stint as South Sydney chief executive, believes the defection of Kiwi players to Tonga for the upcoming World Cup is not due to Kidwell's coaching.
"The decision is not the problem. The timing and the lack of coming forward is the problem," Richardson told Veitchy on Sport.
"It then created a world of rumour and innuendo about David that was absolutely, totally incorrect. To allow David to be held out and to be pillared in the media about it when there was no truth to it is terrible to be honest.
"It had nothing to do with David. It had everything to do with the Tongans believing and wanting to play together at the World Cup."
Richardson is not upset that leading players Jason Taumalolo, David Fusitu'a, Manu Ma'u and Sio Siua Taukeiaho opted to represent Tonga rather than New Zealand but more at the way those players went about making their decision.
"It was extremely disappointing especially when we had no inkling it was going to happen," Richardson said.
"We had sent communication to them via email, text and phone calls. To pull out at the late stage is a bit of a slap in the face for New Zealand rugby league and the game because it is just wrong to do it that way," said Richardson.
"It is about the decency involved in letting the coach and the NZRL know earlier than they did that they weren't going to play."
Richardson confirmed no one from the NZRL or Kiwis had heard directly from 2016 Dally M Medal winner Taumalolo about his decision to switch to Tonga.
"We never got the information from Jason.
"We had heard the rumours and NZRL sent out emails and texts," said Richardson.