Mate Ma'a Tonga

Tonga look to the future after Kiwis defeat

The Kingdom were beaten 36-14 in their Oceania Cup rugby league test in Auckland, as the Kiwis made them pay for any defensive lapses.

Head coach Kristian Woolf said they played well for large periods of the match but were punished for defensive flaws.

"We had plenty of opportunities there at different times and just couldn't quite crack their line," he said.

Thousands flock to Mt Smart stadium

The Kiwi's coach has compared the clash to Australia's 'State of Origin' with the now infamous passion of Tonga's supporters expected to drown out any potential 'home' advantage.

The team's hugely successful Rugby League World Cup campaign in 2017 exposed many to the Pacific nation's pride for their team and country. Supporters dominated stadiums and red and white flags coloured neighbourhoods.

Over the past few weeks cars adorned with Tongan flags have reappeared on the Auckland's streets.

Mt Smart Tonga: A home game for the Kiwis?

For the New Zealand men's and women's rugby league teams, Saturday's matches fit firmly into that category.

As they did in selling out Mt Smart Stadium for last year's test against Australia, Tongan fans will be out in force to support their side.

Kiwis playmaker Shaun Johnson admitted silencing the song, and lowering the thousands of red flags, would take some doing.

"We'll do our best to try to take the crowd out of the game. Whether we can do that or not, because they're so passionate, that's yet to be seen.

South Auckland company shout 200 workers to back Tonga League team

Many members of the Tongan community also say the hype is not as intense this year compared to previous years and there are even fewer decorated houses.

But in South Auckland, for the third year in a row, a pipe manufacturing company is shouting a couple of hundred workers to back Mate Ma'a Tonga this weekend.

At Hynds Pipe system in East Tamaki, workers are gearing up for the game and they're known to take up about 6 rows in the South Stand at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland.

Kotoni Staggs to make Mate Ma’a Tonga debut, set to represent his father he has never met


One of Brisbane Broncos' most promising young star centres, Kotoni Staggs, is set to make his debut for Mate Ma'a Tonga this weekend, representing his father who he has never met.

The 20-year-old has defied statistics growing up in a drug epidemic town, Wellington, in western Sydney, and has become one of the brightest young talents in the NRL.

"I love my culture and that's why I'm here," Staggs said, adding that he wants to "learn a bit more about my dad's side".

He has never met his Tongan father, who resides in the US.

Officials hoping for late boost as tickets still available for Kiwis-Tonga rematch

New Zealand Rugby League is expecting a crowd above 20,000 for Saturday's test between the Kiwis and Tonga, which is still way up on the 12,763 fans that turned up to watch New Zealand stun Australia at the Auckland venue last October. 

However, tickets for this weekend's clash - the first between the two nations since Tonga's historic upset at the 2017 World Cup - have not sold as fast as expected.

It's a change from Tonga's previous two games at Mt Smart, when a 'sea of red' flooded the stands.

Tupouniua goes from grandstand to thick of the action

On Saturday the Roosters' rookie will join Mate Ma'a Tonga on centre stage, making his international debut against his native New Zealand and capping a whirlwind rise in 2019.

Tupouniua will come off the bench for Kristian Woolfe's side against the Kiwis, who he represented at under 20s level as an Auckland-born and raised product before shifting to Bondi at age 17.

His parents' full-blooded Tongan heritage sees Tupouniua bolster one of rugby league's most formidable forward packs after just eight first grade games.

Michael Jennings out of Mate Ma'a Tonga squad to face Kiwis

As the Tongan team cut their squad to 19 on Monday, the loss of Jennings was the biggest blow.

The forced withdrawal of the 31-year-old who has played 10 Tests for Tonga and seven for Australia leaves Solomone Kata (Warriors) and Kotoni Staggs (Broncos) as the logical choices to play in the centres in Auckland on Saturday. 

"It is a shame to lose Michael because he has really been playing well for Parramatta," Mate Ma'a Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said.

"He has also brought wonderful experience to our side through the 2017 World Cup and in Tests last year.

Tonga call up new faces for Test against New Zealand

Woolf has named a 22-man squad of players mainly from the NRL, with Tonga’s 2017 World Cup halfback Tuimoala Lolohea in line to travel from English Super League club Leeds to play in the historic Test at Mt Smart Stadium.

Cowboys utility John Asiata, Manly hooker Manase Fainu, Broncos centre Kotoni Staggs, Titans prop Moeaki Fotuaika and Roosters forward Sitili Tupouniua are the uncapped players in the squad.

World Cup representatives Mahe Fonua (foot) and Ata Hingano (thumb) were in the preliminary squad but are unavailable due to injury.

Kiwis to play British Lions, Tonga in 2019

New Zealand will play Mate Ma'a Tonga on 22 June at Mt Smart Stadium in the first match of the new Oceania Cup.

The Kiwi Ferns will also play against an unnamed opponent in the double header - they'll play a second match against Australia in October.

The Oceania Cup will be played in June and November during the international Test windows.

Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji and Australia make up the six-nation competition.