'No one supports their own like Tongans' – Rugby League World Cup darlings gear up for historic semi-final

Mate Ma'a Tonga will face England at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday for a spot in the World Cup final. Source: 1 NEWS

Lebanon gave Mate Ma'a Tonga a huge scare as the Pacific nation only just managed to scrape through with a 24-22 win in Christchurch. Source: 1 NEWS

Mate Ma'a Tonga mingled with fans this afternoon as they prepare for their RLWC semi-final against England. Source: 1 NEWS

The Mate Ma'a Tonga centre is looking in top shape for this weekend’s clash with England. Source: 1 NEWS

The Mate Ma'a Tonga winger enjoyed a lighter moment with one of the team's assistants. Source: 1 NEWS

The decision to reject New Zealand for Tonga will have a huge impact in the future, Tony Kemp believes. Source: 1 NEWS

The two sets of fans celebrated in style after reaching the tournament semi-finals. Source: 1 NEWS

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Sea Eagles to wind back the clock with Des Hasler re-appointment - report

Des Hasler is on the verge of making a comeback to Manly as the Sea Eagles' coaching debacle takes another shock twist.

It's been widely reported Hasler's management have entered into negotiations with the NRL club to return to the northern beaches just more than eight years after his acrimonious departure.

Assistant John Cartwright was thought to be the frontrunner to take over from Trent Barrett and has publicly received the backing of senior players Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom and Jake Trbojevic.

Barrett is serving a 12-month notice period after quitting the club in July but is expected to sever ties in the coming weeks.

However, Hasler, who was sacked from Canterbury last year, has emerged as a surprise contender.

Hasler was responsible for rebuilding Manly following the disastrous Northern Eagles merger and transformed the club into a powerhouse, taking them to three grand finals and two premierships from 2004 to 2011.

Hasler was sacked from Manly following their 2011 grand final win after it was revealed he had signed with Canterbury and the Sea Eagles accused him of attempting to lure staff members to follow him to Belmore.

Manly chairman Scott Penn said at the time: "If he wants to bring it on in court, let's go."

However, Hasler and the Penn family have reportedly patched up their differences in the past few weeks.

Hasler was sacked by Canterbury in late 2017 despite signing a two-year contract extension just months earlier.

He eventually reached an out-of-court settlement with the Dogs.

Hasler has an impressive coaching resume including a 58.2 per cent winning record after reaching the finals in 12 straight seasons from 2005 to 2016.

Bulldogs Head Coach Des Hasler
Former Bulldogs Head Coach Des Hasler Source: Photosport


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Kangaroos not focused on claiming historic 14th straight win in clash with Kiwis

Mal Meninga's Kangaroos have a chance to etch their names in the rugby league annals over the next few years.

Australia are searching for their 14th-straight Test win on Saturday when they take on New Zealand in what shapes as the turning of a new leaf at Mt Smart Stadium.

Victories over the Kiwis and Tonga over the next fortnight would see the Aussies enter rarefied air.

Not since 2011-14, when they strung together 16 wins under Tim Sheens, has the side experienced a period of sustained success.

And should they keep the roll going, they will have in their cross hairs the 17-game winning run which the side experienced under the great Frank Stanton from 1979-83.

That period included the famous "Invincibles" Kangaroos Tour of England and France in 1982, of which a young Meninga was a part.

And while Meninga is a student of the game's history, he wouldn't comment on where the current side stood in it.

"We don't talk about it; we don't think about it at all," Meninga said of the side's winning streak.

"Thirteen could be lucky or unlucky. I don't know."

The Kangaroos' 13-game winning streak began when he took over in 2016.

While the team has looked unbeatable under his watch, it shouldn't be forgotten he took over from Sheens at a time when the side was in a lull after back-to- back losses to the Kiwis.

Since 2006, Meninga has forged a resume which stands shoulder-to-shoulder with any other coach in the game's history - having won 33 of 43 games while in charge of Queensland and Australia.

Meninga is facing one of the biggest tests of his decorated representative coaching career over the next few years as he attempts to guide the side after the exit of a golden generation.

Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater are all gone and Meninga must nurture a new breed.

"We don't talk about the dawn of a new era; we don't talk about lost players that might have been in this footy team," Meninga said.

"It's about being a Kangaroo and the expectations of a Kangaroo."

The Australian side are the current World Cup champions and play Tonga next week in Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS


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'The fans will come on board' - Kiwis unconcerned with being overshadowed by Tonga

New Zealand say their fate lies in their owns hands as they face up to being overshadowed by Tonga in their own backyard.

Heading into tomorrow's Test against Australia at Mt Smart Stadium, the Kiwis have a fight on their hands for the hearts and minds of the New Zealand rugby league public.

A week out from Australia's clash with Tonga, Mate Ma'a fever has swept through Auckland.

Some streets around Mt Smart Stadium are lined with Tongan flags and houses decked out in red and white.

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

After the likes of Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita and Tevita Pangai Junior turned their backs on representing tier one nations to turn out for Tonga, the Mate Ma'a have received a groundswell of support on the back of their World Cup heroics.

The Kiwis on the other hand have been marred by a string of bad performances and questions are being posed about their culture after Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor's illicit drugs scandal following last year's Anzac Test in Canberra.

New skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak said it was up to the side to win back the support of the New Zealand public and believed winning would achieve that goal.

"If we can do it for each other then the fans will just come on board and ride the wave with us," Watene-Zelezniak said.

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

"The focus is on us and what we do and the fans will follow that."

The NZRL are hopeful of a crowd of 15,000 for tomorrow's Test while Mt Smart is expected to be at its capacity of 25,000 the following week for Australia-Tonga.

Asked about the looming threat posed by the Mate Ma'a, Watene-Zelezniak said: "I'm not too upset because I'm Tongan as well.

The Pacific powerhouse are in town ahead of next week's clash with the Kangaroos. Source: 1 NEWS

"It's a good thing for the game. The Tongan people are prideful about their country and where they come from.

"It's just going to build and build and hopefully we can return the favour with our fans."

The Tongan winger said the Mate Ma'a Tonga fans made the Rugby League World Cup in 2017 a success. Source: 1 NEWS


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'I'm Tongan as well' – Kiwis captain praises Auckland Mate Ma'a Tonga supporters

The fanatical support for Mate Ma'a Tonga from the Auckland community hasn't gone unnoticed by the Kiwis, relishing the impact the fans are having on the international rugby league window.

With the Tongan side having arrived in New Zealand this week ahead of next week's Test with the Kangaroos in Auckland, thousands of fans have again turned out to show their support for the Pacific powerhouses, while the match itself is on course for a sellout.

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

Speaking to media in Auckland today, Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak said that his side aren't being distracted by the Tongan supporters.

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

"(It's) not too bad because I'm Tongan as well," he joked.

"It's a good thing for the game. As Mal (Meninga) was talking about, having games back here.

"The Tongan people, are prideful about their country, and where they come from, and I feel it's a good thing for the game.

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

"It's just going to build and build, and hopefully we can return the favour with our fans doing the same."

The Pacific powerhouse are in town ahead of next week's clash with the Kangaroos. Source: 1 NEWS


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