An estimated 5000 fans out to greet Mate Ma’a Tonga in Manukau, but five times that number are expected to watch them face off against the Kangaroos on Saturday week.

The Mt Smart stadium, where the Mate Ma’a Tonga will take on Australia on October 20 holds more than 25,000 spectators and there are few tickets left.

In contrast, tickets for this Saturday’s rugby league clash between New Zealand and Australia are selling slowly and NZRL boss Greg Peters admitted he would be happy if 15,000 turned up.

Last year Mate Ma’a Tonga downed New Zealand 28-22 at Waikato Stadium during the Rugby League World Cup.

Last night the Vodafone Events Centre was filled to capacity by Tongan supporters wearing the red and white of the kingdom’s flag.

The team’s flight from Sydney was delayed for several hours, but their fans were prepared to wait and greeted the Tongan players with a rendition of Tutira Mai Nga Iwi.

The Manukau event was held to prevent the chaos that occurred last year when thousands of Mate Ma’a Tonga fans filled the airport to greet the players on arrival and caused widespread congestion on nearby roads.

Fans have put out a call on social media for Andrew Fifita to lead the team’s traditional war cry, the Sipi Tau, on the field when they face the Kangaroos.

As Kaniva news reported on the weekend, Sika Manu will lead Mate Ma’a Tonga against Australia on October 20 after being cleared of a serious knee injury.

It was thought he would not be able to play against Australia before coach Kristian Woolf named him in the 19 man squad for the test.

“We are extending every resource we can to give this challenge our absolute best effort,” Woolf said.

Manu told Radio New Zealand the team was looking forward to their first clash with Australia.

“We’re very confident we can get the job done and like I said we just have to prepare as well as we can and then take it out onto the field,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, who campaigned to make the long-delayed game a reality, said the first ever Test match against Tonga would be “a historic occasion, not only for the Kangaroos, but for the game as well.”

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said Tonga had earned the right to take on the world champions.

The Tonga-Australia game will kick off at 7.35pm on October 20.

The main points

  • An estimated 5000 fans out to greet Mate Ma’a Tonga in Manukau, but five times that number are expected to watch them face off against the Kangaroos on Saturday week.
  • The Mt Smart stadium, where the Mate Ma’a Tonga will take on Australia on October 20 holds more than 25,000 spectators and there are few tickets left.
  • Mate Ma’a Tonga captain Sika Manu said the team was looking forward to their first clash with the world champions.

For more information 

Fans turn out in force to greet Mate Ma’a Tonga rugby league team

Tongan league fans emotional, excited to welcome team to NZ

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