Tonga will face the Australian national rugby league team in Auckland it has been confirmed tonight, with a showdown against the Kiwis next year also expected to be announced.
The NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said in a statement on Tuesday night confirming the match that the Australian Kangaroo will take on Mate Ma’a Tonga for the very first time in an end-of-session test on October 20 at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
“This is a fantastic result for all fans of rugby league and the continued growth of the international game,” NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said.
“Many people have worked tirelessly right around the globe to ensure this match takes place.
The news came following reports that Australian players are prepared to take a massive pay cut to make sure the game goes ahead.
The official Australian Rugby League site, NRL.com, quoted Rugby League Players’ Association boss Ian Prendergast as saying the players had agreed in principle to the match.
“We’re still working through those details but it may be that the Australians receive a very smaller match payment, the same as the Tongan boys and that’s something that they’re willing to accept on a one-off basis to get this game across the line,” Prendegast said.
The Tonga v Kangaroos match will be the weekend after Australia meet New Zealand at the same venue.
The Kiwis look set to take on Tonga on June 22 next year during the standalone representative weekend.
The Australian team members have agreed to take AUS$5000 instead of their usual $20,000 for the match.
Mate Ma’a players would be paid the same.
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga said he was looking forward to his side being tested by the fourth-ranked team in the world in Tonga.
“This will be a great occassion and it is something I know the players are excited about.
“This will be an important game not only for the Kangaroos, but for the international game.”
Tickets for members will start from $20 for adults, while general public tickets will cost from $25 each.
The NZRL was initially against the Tonga v Australia match as they felt it would detract from their own test.
“There are ongoing discussions and we’ve had discussions over several months about that,” Peters said last month.
“Our overall position is that we want to give prominence to New Zealand versus Australia.
“We have bounced around a number of scenarios with [NRL chief executive] Todd [Greenberg] and his team and there are ongoing discussions, but we haven’t landed on a fixed position yet.”
Peters said they were keen on playing Tonga at some stage.
“We also want to ensure that we have in our calendar a match against Tonga, as well as the Australians playing Tonga,” he said.
“That’s part of that consideration and if there is a possibility of that match going ahead, we would want to ensure that we were also announcing a match against Tonga at the same time.”
NRL.com reported New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters and NRL GM elite competitions Jason King would make the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday following months of negotiations.