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Australia vs Tonga needs to be cherished, not cheapened

Tonga players celebrate at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup (NRL Photos/Shane Wenzlick)
Roar Guru
31st July, 2018
22

More often than not, trying to be all things to all people results in being nothing to no one. Talk of the highly anticipated Australia vs Tonga clash being played in New York is therefore concerning.

The success of the island nation at the 2017 World Cup was such that progression to Tier 1 status is now a case of when, not if.

It all began with the defection of the world’s best forward, Jason Taumalolo, and it ended… well we all know how it ended.

International rugby league was never to be the same, and Tonga have since cemented their place among the world elite (yes, ok, that may only be four nations).

For years, the game has been crying out for a ‘new player’ to match it with the Kangaroos and Kiwis, and while England’s development under Wayne Bennet cannot be understated, it’s the rise of Tonga that has people sitting up and taking notice.

This is a side that can cause chaos all over the park. As a result, a clash with Australia has to happen.

The world’s best side against the world’s most ferocious up-and-comer. The experienced marksman against the young brawler.

Please, do not take it to the Big Apple.

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Play it in Brisbane or Sydney, allowing genuine Tongan rugby league fans in Australia the chance to watch their heroes. Do not try and flog something that could end up as big as State of Origin to a country that has no interest in rugby league.

Yes, expansion is critical, but it should be treated as a marathon, not a sprint. If the obsession with the US is to be acted on, start with an NRL game. You can guarantee that Russell Crowe would be more than willing to send his Bunnies over, as well as a smattering of random Souths fans.

The recent Denver Test, while by no means a failure, hardly had tongues wagging in the States. It’s just not their jam at the moment. This in itself should act as a warning against letting the potential Australia-Tonga bonanza follow.

Play it at Suncorp and you sell 50,000 tickets. The atmosphere will be spellbinding.

Play it in New York and you’ll get an empty stadium.

To the decision makers: please be reasonable. Give real rugby league fans the game they deserve. More importantly, give this match the respect it deserves.