Traditional welcome

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

It was a kiwi welcome for Mate Ma'a Tonga and a clear sign the Tongan tide is back.

Thousands of fans dressed in red packed out the stadium for the first of two public events before the 29-strong Mate Ma'a Tonga squad go head to head for the first time with world champions the Kangaroos at Mt Smart Stadium on 20 October.

Waiting eagerly at the front of the stage with her siblings was 13-year-old Ana Malini.