Warriors stars attend fundraiser for Tonga's Cyclone Gita recovery

Stars from the New Zealand Warriors rugby league team turned up at a sausage sizzle fundraiser to show their support for Tonga's Cyclone Gita recovery today.

Tonga was smashed by Category 4 Cyclone Gita overnight, leaving a big clean up bill in its wake.

Albert Vete was among the league legends to show up at the fundraiser, telling 1 NEWS he had heard from his uncle back in Tonga.

"I heard from one of the uncle's sayiny 'the good thing about this is I had a bit of time to prepare'," Vete said.

Cyclone Gita is currently passing close to Fiji, affecting its southern islands.

The storm is expected to make its way closer to New Zealand later this week but the exact path is not yet known. 

Albert Vete was among those to attend a sausage sizzle fundraiser today. 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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'The expectations are the same' - Kangaroos play down rebuilding tag before facing Kiwis

Mal Meninga has shrugged off the suggestion Australia are set to go through a rebuild, insisting there's no reason why their reign of domination shouldn't continue over the rugby league world.

The Kangaroos will be missing 231 games of Test experience through a mixture of representative retirement, injuries and suspension when they take on New Zealand at Mt Smart Stadium tomorrow.

Despite the departure of four potential future Immortals in Cameron Smith (56 Tests), Cooper Cronk (38), Johnathan Thurston (38) and Billy Slater (30), Meninga is refusing to see it as a new era.

Also absent from the side which won last year's World Cup final are Matt Gillett (12), Wade Graham (6) and Michael Morgan (12) while Greg Inglis (39) will miss the tour through suspension.

Australia's 17-man squad has a total of 106 Tests between them, making them the most inexperienced Kangaroos squad since 2003.

Tomorrow's Test against the Kiwis will be just the second time since 2006 that an Australian side hasn't included Smith.

Despite featuring four debutants in James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell, Luke Keary and Damien Cook, Meninga said there was no reason for their 13-game unbeaten streak to end.

"The expectations are the same," Meninga said.

"It's not because we've lost players, we've got new players stepping up. That's what our focus has been.

"It's the same expectations as anyone putting on the green and gold jersey in the 110-years of our history. We want to make sure we play really well and they come off the field happy with their performance."

The Kiwis are similarly without nine players from their World Cup quarter-final loss to Fiji, including skipper and Dally M winner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Key players Issac Luke and Tohu Harris will be missing through injury as well.

Coach Michael Maguire, who faces the biggest test of his new reign, said he was refusing to buy into the Kangaroos invincible aura.

"A lot of that has to do with what we do, what we do when we go away from the field," Maguire said.

"That's the key to anything, it comes down to our preparation, our practice, the connections that we have.

"Our main goal at the moment is who we are. I've started on a journey with these boys and it's a real honour to be sitting in the seat."

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga speaks with Cameron Smith and Sam Thaiday.
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga speaks with Cameron Smith and Sam Thaiday. Source: Getty


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'I don't think he realises how in awe we are' - Kiwi Ferns rave over influence of Simon Mannering

The influence of Warriors legend Simon Mannering is being felt by the Kiwi Ferns ahead of tomorrow's Test with the Jillaroos, with both captain and coach grateful for his input this week.

After retiring from both club and Test match football this season, Mannering has been working with the Kiwi Ferns as a trainer in their build up to facing Australia at Mt Smart tomorrow night.

Speaking at this afternoon's media conference, captain Honey Hireme and coach Tony Benson were both full of nothing but praise for Mannering's impact with the side, on and off the field.

"Simon jumped at the opportunity when I offered it to him," Benson began. "He's really excited to be involved."

"His official title is a trainer, he gets involved. He's involved in all the warm ups, works with our head strength and conditioning.

"He's a vital part off the field - his one on ones sitting with players and interacting with them. There's a lot of experience and information he can tip them up on, around preparation and the mental side of the game as well.

"To have someone of his figure in the game come and be in camp with the Kiwi Ferns, it's a big boost for the girls."

Hireme also revealed that Mannering has taken on a number of other roles with the side, including driving the team bus.

"He's real genuine about it too," she said.

"He's not just offering us all his experience in terms of rugby league, he's driving our van, he's giving us water bottles, just before we left he's sitting playing cards with us.

"I don't think he realises how in awe we are of him."


The Warriors legend is helping the New Zealand women's side this week. Source: 1 NEWS


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'We've got half a team of Tongans' – Kiwi Ferns skipper says Pacific women ready for Test league

A Mate Ma'a Tonga women's side shouldn't be out of the question for international rugby league in the future, according to Kiwi Ferns captain Honey Hireme.

With 2018 seeing the introduction of the women's NRL and women's State of Origin, Hireme is hopeful that the continuing advancement of the women's game will next spread to Test level, meaning more competitive sides, including those from the Pacific.

"Here in South Auckland, there's a lot of Tongan players," Hireme said at this afternoon's press conference in Auckland.

"I'd love to see all those Pacific nations be a part of that, and start to build their teams.

"That only helps us when it comes to the World Cup. We've got more competition, games, and that competitiveness within women's rugby league."

Hireme also joked that the introduction of a Tongan women's team could cause a split in her team's camp.

"We've got half a team of Tongans, so hopefully they stay with us."

Honey Hireme wants to see the smaller nations represented at the top level. Source: 1 NEWS