Mate Ma'a Tonga coach says NZRL missed chance to grow game in NZ by vetoing Tonga-Kangaroos Test

Mate Ma’a Tonga coach Kristian Woolf fears an opportunity to grow rugby league in New Zealand was missed after NZRL stopped the highly-anticipated Tonga-Kangaroos Test from being played in Auckland.

The Test is perilously close to not being played at all, Woolf told Stuff.

A proposal to play it in New York was abandoned before the NZRL vetoed the Test being played in Auckland as it would affect ticket sales for the Kiwis-Kangaroos clash at Mt Smart Stadium on October 13.

Woolf, who led Mate Ma’a Tonga on their thrilling ride to the semi-final at the World Cup last year, understood the reasons that the NZRL had vetoed the Test but was still disappointed.

"While there was a big focus on Tonga (during RLWC2017), there was also a big focus on rugby league in New Zealand and it didn't matter that a New Zealand team wasn't playing," he said.

"It wasn't just the Tongan population, it was the rugby league population in general that really got excited by that event and really wanted to be a part of things going forward. That's the disappointing thing for me.”

With time running out to organise the clash with the Kangaroos, Woolf feared the match would not take place at all.

"My biggest fear is that the longer this goes on and the longer we're waiting for someone to pull the trigger that eventually we get to a point where it can't happen," Woolf told Stuff.

"I think we need to know in the next couple of days. We're less than nine weeks out at the moment, just in terms of organising games and organising things around sponsorship."

Tonga celebrate the try by David Fusitua. Kiwis v Tonga, Rugby League World Cup, FMG Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand. Saturday, 11 November, 2017. Copyright photo: John Cowpland /
David Fusitu'a celebrates his try against the Kiwis at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. Source: Photosport