18 Oct 2018

Sport: Mate Ma'a Tonga riding wave of support

1:34 pm on 18 October 2018

The Tonga rugby league team is still learning how to deal with the enthusiastic support of its fans.

Tonga rugby league fans at Mt Smart Stadium at training on Wednesday.

Tonga rugby league fans at Mt Smart Stadium at training on Wednesday. Photo: Photosport

Mate Ma'a Tonga take on world champions Australia in Auckland on Saturday in-front of a sell-out crowd of over 26,000 at Mount Smart Stadium.

The overwhelming majority will be decked out in Tongan red and white to celebrate their team's first match with the Kangaroos.

After about 4000 fans gathered to welcome Tonga to New Zealand last week and more than 2000 watched the team train on Wednesday, lock Jason Taumalolo said their passion and commitment was unique.

"I'm not used to it and I don't think the boys are either," Taumalolo said.

"We know it's going to be pretty loud on Saturday and it was pretty loud at training," he said.

"I think the boys are still trying to get used to loud noises and how loud it's going to be on Saturday."

Crowds of 80,000 plus had watched Taumalolo play in two National Rugby League grand finals but the lock said the noise and energy of the Tongan fans was something else.

"The boys feed off their support and for them to turn up in numbers and paint the place red obviously inspires the boys even more," he said.

"It does have its downsides to trying to call plays and you can't really hear each other but I'm sure the boys don't mind it."

Tonga's Jason Taumalolo signing.

Tonga's Jason Taumalolo signing. Photo: Photosport NZ

Like the fans, the players were eagerly anticipating taking on the world champions, Taumalolo said.

"Obviously the boys have been looking forward to it and the game has been in talks for a while now and to have it finally happen is pretty special - not just for ourselves but for the country.

"We're hoping we will go out there and do every Tongan proud and I'm sure the boys will do that."

Taumalolo said he wasn't buying talk the Kangaroos were vulnerable after their shock loss to the Kiwis last weekend.

"They're obviously a new group of boys and the next generation of Kangaroos players. They might have had a few lapses but don't get me wrong, they're still number one in rugby league and there's a reason why they're in that Australian jersey," he said.

"They're all game breakers and they're all special in their own way and we'll definitely have our hands full come Saturday."