16 Oct 2018

Tonga league coach expects 'cracker of a game of footy'

2:47 pm on 16 October 2018

Tonga's passionate rugby league fans could also lift Australia when the two teams meet in Auckland on Saturday.

Tonga Rugby league training, Mt Smart Stadium.

Tonga Rugby league training, Mt Smart Stadium. Photo: Photosport

A 25,000 strong sea of red is expected at Mount Smart stadium for the first Test match between the two nations.

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said he was grateful for the support.

"It's going to provide us with plenty of energy, plenty of enthusiasm," Woolf said.

Kristian Woolf.

Kristian Woolf. Photo: Photosport

"But at the same time I know from the World Cup semi-final, talking to the English boys after the game, they loved it and thrived on it as well," he said.

"It probably brings the best out of both teams and the positive there is that it's going to be a cracker of a game of footy."

After a huge welcoming party thrown by Auckland's Tongan community last week, the Mate Ma'a Tonga arrived back in Auckland yesterday from a training camp in Hamilton.

The team elected to get out of AucKland over the weekend to avoid the distraction of Tonga's adoring fans, Woolf said.

"That's part of the reason we went to Hamilton was to get away from all of that and be able to concentrate on ourselves a little bit more," he said.

"But it's great to be able to come back to New Zealand where the majority of our fan base is and it's something we are really going to enjoy in the lead up."

But while Tonga would enjoy the majority of support in Auckland, Woolf said the Kangaroos had the advantage of having game time under their belt.

Fans packed out the Manukau Vodafone Events Centre to welcome Tonga's National Rugby League team 'Mate Ma'a Tonga' to New Zealand.

Photo: RNZ / Indira Stewart

Despite suffering a two point loss to the Kiwis on Saturday, Australia would be match hardened, according to the Tonga coach, who had wanted a warm up game before facing the World Champions.

"We're a little bit disappointed that couldn't happen but at the end of the day those are the cards that we're dealt and this is an opportunity that we have been looking for for a long time," he said.

"It's not going to be any reason for us not being at our best. That kind of thing is usually more mental than physical anyway."

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