It’s finally official: the Kangaroos will face Mate Ma’a Tonga in a historic end-of-season Test match this year.
The match wil take place at the ‘neutral’ ground of Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday October 20, 2018 – the week following the New Zealand-Australia clash.
It’s a game that has serious potential for a boilover, with Tonga – led by converts Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita – having gone within a whisker of facing off against Australia in last year’s Rugby League World Cup final.
“This is a fantastic result for all fans of Rugby League and the continued growth of the international game,” NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said.
“Many people have worked tirelessly right around the globe to ensure this match takes place.
“I’d particularly like to thank the NZRL for their efforts to ensure this match eventuated on New Zealand soil, along with the RLPA and the players.
“Tonga are the fourth-ranked team in the world and have fully earned their right to take on the World Champion Kangaroos.”
The match is a huge boon for international rugby league, which has somewhat struggled in recent years.
“This will be a great occasion and it is something I know the players are excited about,” Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga said.
“This will be an important game not only for the Kangaroos but for the international game.
“As a game it’s important to capitalise on the success of the World Cup last year, and particularly the success of Tonga and the other Pacific nations.
“Tonga’s performances last year captured the imagination of so many people in the game and I’m sure the game in Tonga will grow even more with games like this taking place.”
The Tongan team are sure to be strongly supported, with Stuart Turner, Head of Major Events at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), pointing out that Auckland is home to a “sizeable Tongan community” that is “full of passionate and loyal league fans”.