A re-match against New Zealand, maybe a British Lions tour: All options on the table for Mate Ma’a Tonga  after Saturday’s game

‘Oku ‘i ai e mahalo he taimi’ ni ‘e lava ke fokotu’u ha tau tapatolu ‘a ‘Aositelēlia, Nu’u Sila mo Tonga he līki’. ‘Oku toe ‘i ai ‘eni mo e talanoa na’a lava ha tua ki he Laione ‘a Pilitānia’ he ta’u kaha’u’ pea lahi mo e ngaahi fakakaukau ia kuo fofoa’i hake ke fakalahi e faingamalie ‘o e Mate Ma’a Tonga ki ha va’inga mo e ngaahi timi tia ‘uluaki’.

A re-match between Mate Ma’a Tonga and New Zealand next June could signal the regular face-offs between Island nations and tier one rugby league teams.

One Australian sports journalist has declared that after Saturday night, Tonga deserve better than second-tier status.

However, that could be about to change.

There has been speculation about a tri-series involving Australia, New Zealand and Tonga.

There is even talk of a British Lions tour next year that could afford even more options for regional teams.

Mate Ma’a Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said he would support anything that gave the Tonga side a chance to play against tier one nations.

Saturday night’s game against Australia ended with a 34-16 victory for the Kangaroos, but the long anticipated match has boosted support for Tonga and the other Pacific rugby league nations -Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea – being given a regular spot on the world stage.

Ahead of last Friday’s meeting of the Asia Pacific Rugby League Federation in Auckland, there was speculation about a Pacific nations tournament.

This would mean Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand – a tier one league nation – facing each other in a round-robin format, giving each nation at least three games.

Rugby League International Federation chief executive Nigel Wood said international opportunities had to be developed.

”There are some really exciting developments in International Rugby League,” Wood said.

“Virtually everyone can see the value of having a strong calendar that respects the importance of major domestic competitions, while also allowing nations and the international game  the room to build.

“We have the opportunity to grow the international game, we have the nations who want to be a part of the international game.

“We need to provide the structure and the focus to make that happen, and frankly there has never been a better time to make that commitment.”

Kangaroos’ coach Mal Meninga, who was a key player in making Saturday night’s game happen, believes the key is making the financial outcome equal for all those involved.

The Kangaroos cut their pay to match that of the Tongan players and later said they would have played for free.

“I would say they should be paid a dollar if the game is making a dollar out of these games but I just think it should be fair and equitable among all the nations,” Meninga said.

“Whether they are getting $3000 or $5000 or $10,000 I just think it should be equal for all countries.”

The main points

  • A re-match between Mate Ma’a Tonga and New Zealand next June could signal the regular face-offs between Island nations and tier one rugby league teams.
  • One Australian sports journalist has declared that after Saturday night, Tonga deserve better than second-tier status.
  • However, that could be about to change.

For more information

Cordner says Kangaroos would have played for free

More players expected to follow the lead into Tongan rugby league team

Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation Board meets in Auckland, New Zealand

Tonga set for more league tests in 2019 

Tonga Test gives a glimpse of huge potential for the global game

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