The Mate-Ma‘a-Tonga team touched down on New Zealand soil this morning, to a warm welcome by cheering fans and a haka.
Several hundreds of supporters were at Auckland Airport when the Tongan Rugby League team arrived. The team will spend three days in Auckland before they leave for England and to compete at the Rugby League World Cup 2013.
The boisterous fans vied to get closer to their heroes as they walked through to the arrival meeting areas, and were asked to just wait by the exit for the haka to be performed by a group of Tongan teenagers from the Auckland Community..
Draped with red clothing, many waved Tongan flags and signs as they welcomed the team to the land that is home to more than 50,000 Tongans.
The New Zealand RLC chairperson, Sione Kivalu said a prayer, an occasion that brought the hysterical fans to a short silence followed by the sipitau presented by the Mate-Maʻa-Tonga players.
Captain Brent Kite told Kaniva News the reception has been fakamāfana (warm).
“We are thankful and humbled just like the reception we had in Tonga we are really grateful we really appreciate them on their support”
The Mate-Maʻa-Tonga will play their opening game against Scotland’s team at Derwent Park on October 29.
A hulohula night will be held this evening Tuesday 15 at the Mangere Community Hall as part of a fundraising to help the team.
On Wednesday 16, a fundraising dinner will be held at the Otahuhu Leopards Rugby league Club 645, Mt. Wellington Rd, Mt. Wellington on Wednesday 17. All funds raised go to the team.
The team stay at the Mt Richmond Motel and will have their training sessions at the Otahuhu Rugby League Field. They will leave on October 17 for England.