'I could hold my spot there' - Kiwi teen backs himself for NRL stardom after signing with Cronulla

Eighteen-year old Cruz Topai-Aveai has signed a three-year deal with the Sharks. Source: 1 NEWS

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Ticket sales a struggle for Auckland trans-Tasman league clash

An embarrassing outcome at the turnstiles looms for New Zealand, prompting coach Michael Maguire to urge Kiwi rugby league fans to support their home team.

Two days out from the trans-Tasman Test in Auckland, the New Zealand Rugby League is anticipating a crowd of about 15,000 at Mt Smart Stadium.

The hastily arranged Test between the Kangaroos and Tonga a week later is expected to be sold out at the same venue, which can hold just under 26,000 fans.

Venue officials haven't responded to AAP's request for official sale figures but NZRL chief executive Greg Peters admitted the Kiwis Test was likely to attract a considerably smaller crowd, despite it being part of a trans-Tasman triple- header involving women's and junior internationals.

"We're hoping to get a crowd of around 15,000 at the end of the day but if we get three wins on the weekend people will say 'I wish I was there watching that," Peters told Radio Sport.

"I don't think it has quite sold out the following week."

Boosted by New Zealand and Australian NRL stars, Mate Ma'a Tonga provided the fairytale story of last year's World Cup, attracting massive crowds on their way to a semi-final loss to England.

An indication that they would be popular again next week came at an official "welcome" in South Auckland on Wednesday night, when about 4000 flag-waving supporters enthusiastically greeted Sika Manu's team.

Maguire implored Kiwi supporters to make their presence felt as he moulds a new- look team seeking to put last year's World Cup disaster behind them.

The hosts under former coach David Kidwell were beaten by Tonga in pool play in Hamilton and were eliminated in a shock quarter-final loss to Fiji in Wellington.

"Oh look, I think we should get behind the team," Maguire said.

"It's a new beginning to where we're going. I think the supporters play a big part in what makes a team. If people get behind that, they're going to be in for a really good surprise over where we're going as a group."

Peters said New Zealand fans in their Auckland heartland are getting used to the idea of supporting their team again.

"We haven't had games regularly enough at our home. Mt Smart is the home of rugby league in New Zealand and we need to start to rebuild that," he said.

"We took a big hit last year and that's why I'm calling it a new era and a rebuild of the faith in the black and white shirt at the senior level particularly."

New Zealand will host Tonga next year in a mid-season Test which replaces the failed experiment of playing England in Denver.

The NZRL is still to be financially compensated for this year's Denver fixture, which was to be the first of a three-year agreement.

The Kiwis are playing the Kangaroos in a trans-Tasman triple-header this Saturday in Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS


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Watch: Mate Ma’a Tonga stars slap Mick Potter with jandals in hilarious initiation ritual

New Mate Ma'a Tonga assistant coach Mick Potter got a rude introduction to his new side's team culture, being slapped with jandals by the team by way of initiation.

Potter, who previously coached Fiji Bati to a stunning World Cup victory over the Kiwis at last year's World Cup, joined Kristian Woolf's coaching set-up recently.

As the team trained in Hamilton, he was given a warm welcome, despite appearances to the contrary.

The Tongans take on Australia in Auckland next weekend. 

Team spirit in the Tongan camp is sky high, as the team welcomes their new assistant coach into the fold. Source: 1 NEWS

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Watch as junior Tongan league players welcome Mate Ma’a Tonga stars with rousing sipi tau

Junior Tongan league players gave the Mate Ma’a Tonga stars a rousing welcome, clearly delighting the island kingdom's national team as they arrived in Auckland.

The Tongan Hakula players performed an earth-shattering sipi tau for their heroes as they arrived in Manukau last night ahead of next week's clash with the Kangaroos in Auckland.

The Mate Ma’a Tonga players' phone cameras were held high to capture the special moment as the young players gave the Tongan haka their all.

Mate Ma’a Tonga meet Australia in an historic Test at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday next week. 

More vision from Mate Ma'a Tonga's arrival in Auckland yesterday

Tevita Pangai made sure team spirit was high as Tonga arrived in Auckland yesterday. Source: 1 NEWS

Hurell and teammate Jason Taumalolo joined fans dancing during their welcome at Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau. Source: 1 NEWS

Despite their flight being delayed a few hours from Sydney the Tongan fans showed their support at Vodafone Events centre in Manukau. Source: 1 NEWS

Auckland welcome The Tongan Hakula players delivered an earth-shattering sipi tau for their heroes in Auckland yesterday. Source: 1 NEWS


Watch: Jason Taumalolo, Mate Ma'a Tonga lose it as Andrew Fifita gets pranked

Team spirit was in plentiful supply as Mate Ma'a Tonga arrived in Auckland last night, as Andrew Fifita found himself on the receiving end of a classic childhood prank.

As Tonga arrived ahead of next week's clash with the Kangaroos in Auckland, swarms of fans turned out to welcome their side at a special event in Manukau.

Star forwards Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita spoke to media, however, Tevita Pangai Jr managed to leave Fifita's face as red as Tonga's shirt - pulling his pants down in front of the camera.

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

"That's just how we are," Pangai Jr said.

"We like to have fun, mock each other - it's good."

Tevita Pangai made sure team spirit was high as Tonga arrived in Auckland yesterday. Source: 1 NEWS


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