By Michael Chammas, nrl.com
A desperate plea from the King of Tonga direct to NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg is set to help revive the end-of-season Test match against Australia.
The king of Tonga, Tupou VI, phoned Greenberg last week when it seemed as though the Tonga-Australia match wouldn’t go ahead due to the financial restraints around the event.
However in a sign of just how much the match means to the people of Tonga, Tupou VI got in contact with Greenberg to reiterate the importance of the game to his people and the impact last year’s World Cup had on the nation.
Since the conversation with King Tupou VI, Greenberg has met the NZRL to discuss the possibility of Auckland hosting the much anticipated fixture on October 20, where 30,000 people are expected to pack out Mt Smart Stadium if it is given the green light in the coming days.
NRL.com understands that match is pencilled in, however it could rely on the Australian players agreeing to a one-off reduction in their $20,000 match fee they are entitled to for representing the Kangaroos.
King Tupou VI flew to Auckland for last year’s semi final against England, and later invited the players back to his palace the following week to provide them with an award of the Royal Orders, such was the impact of his nation’s breakthrough performance.
Officials having been working closely for months trying to get the Tonga-Australia match on the calendar, exploring many options including New York City.
Brisbane showed a keen interest in hosting the match, however it now looks likely to be held in Auckland a week after the Kangaroos are scheduled to play New Zealand in a one-off Test match before the Kiwis travel to the United Kingdom to take on England.
Greenberg is expected to meet with RLPA chief executive Ian Prendergast in the coming days to discuss the potential of a reduced payment acceptance by the Kangaroos.
Tongan superstar Andrew Fifita has already expressed a willingness to play for free, not concerned about the money rather the opportunity to join forces with Jason Taumalolo and company to take on the best in the world.