Tongan New Zealand MP Jenny Salesa said she believed many non-Tongan New Zealanders would support the Mate Ma’a Tonga team when it will clash with the Kangaroos on October 20.
This was just like a match between New Zealand and Australia and was a game to support, she said.
Meanwhile, Tongan star Jason Taumalolo has hailed Kangaroos players for accepting arguably the biggest pay cut in rugby league history to stage their historic Test match next month.
Australia will face the Mate Ma’a for the first time after Kangaroos players agreed to slash their normal $20,000 match payments to under $5000 for the Test in Auckland.
“For them to take a pay cut, for all the players to do that, it means a lot,” Taumalolo told AAP.
“Not just to us boys who get to play against Australia, it means a lot to international rugby league. For them to do that, it’s going to go a long way to us bettering the international game.”
The development comes a year after Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita controversially turned their back on New Zealand and Australia respectively to pull on the Tongan red in the World Cup.
In doing so they also knocked back lucrative money negotiated in the CBA.
Kangaroos players pocketed around $50,000 each for winning last year’s World Cup, while tournament surprise packets Tonga received only $500 a game.
Now Taumalolo and his teammates will earn the same amount as the Australians.
Taumalolo and Simaima Taufa, both won Player of the Year awards at the 2018 Players’ Champion accolades ceremony held in Sydney last week.
Taumalolo took out ‘the big one’ in the form of the club’s Paul Bowman Medal for Cowboys Player of the Year.
The popular lock was one of the game’s hardest workers in the 2018 season, averaging 177 metres per game and becoming the first forward to run for over 5000 metres.
Taumalolo was awarded the Player of the Year and the Player’s Player Awards for the third time in 2018.
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