Rugby League: Mate Ma'a Tonga stars welcomed at rousing ceremony

Thousands of Mate Ma'a Tonga rugby league fans were in full voice to greet their rugby league heroes at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau on Wednesday night.

The team arrived from Sydney late on Wednesday to prepare for next week's historic test against the Kangaroos at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.

It will be the first time Tonga has played in New Zealand since last year's World Cup, where they defied the odds to reach the semi-finals, beating the New Zealand Kiwis in the process.

Fans at the Vodafone Events Centre were screaming and cheering when they got a glimpse of their heroes, and then sung a hymn for the players.

Tonga centre Konrad Hurell hopes the team can put on a show for the loyal fans.

"It's more a motivation than a pressure for us," he said. "It's good to perform for them.

"They are there for us when we are winning or losing. That's our family - that's the people we play for, they are not just fans.

"It's such a little nation - we don't have much. They really believe in us and put our trust in us.

"We are just looking forward to playing for them, doing our best and hopefully coming away with a win.

"We love our little nation and we forget about who we play for as a club - we come together for Tonga. It's good to have that spirit and we are looking forward to it."

The side will be based in Hamilton, as they prepare for the October 20 test.

There will be a second opportunity to meet the teams at Mt Smart on Wednesday, October 17.


Join us on October 20 for live updates of the Tonga vs Australia rugby league test.