Suspended Mate Ma'a Tonga prop Andrew Fifita says he stands by his decision in choosing to represent Tonga over the NSW Blues.
The 29-year-old NRL superstar is set to miss this weekend's clash against the Kiwis at Mount Smart Stadium after the NRL judiciary handed the front rower a three-match ban on Tuesday night, for a dangerous tackle against Canberra Raiders' Ryan Sutton last weekend while he was playing for the Cronulla Sharks.
Fifita hasn't let his suspension dampen his mood as he joined his team at a fan day event at Manukau's Westfield mall, at the Stirling Sports store this afternoon.
He said the bond within the Mate Ma'a Tonga group is indescribable, saying it is like one big family.
"When you talk about the brotherhood within our group, I guess it is at an international level," said Fifita.
"When you are talking about Origin and that, like I said in past media the pinnacle for our game is playing for your country and we are doing it proudly.
"Look at what we are creating, our next journey is our building towards the next World Cup… so the passion is there."
His teammate Jason Taumalolo said the emotions and physical preparations have grown stronger everyday.
"Yeah pretty excited, obviously the boys are a bit excited before, obviously fan day signing today," said Taumalolo.
"Training has been good and it's good to see Andrew [Fifita] got suspended too [sarcasm].
The 2015 Dally M winner said the new players within the Tongan group are still learning the Sipi Tau and jokingly suggested that newbie Kotoni Staggs could be in the running to lead it.
"We have just practiced it [Sipi Tau], we've got a few boys that don't even know it yet. There's Katoni Staggs… hopefully he is not mumbling the words on Saturday."
The last time Tonga played New Zealand, the men in red came from behind to upset the home team 28-24 in Hamilton during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.