Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
On the 25 of June professional Rugby League finally returns to New Zealand after a nearly three-year hiatus.
The country’s national team the Kiwis take on rising International Rugby League force Mate Ma’a Tonga in what is sure to be a thrilling encounter.
New Zealand will not be the only one of the two sides looking forward to playing at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium as it was at that same venue where Tonga played their most recent International game in 2019, an astonishing upset victory against Australia.
Back in April when this fixture was announced New Zealand Rugby League’s Chief Executive Officer Greg Peters put out an official statement about the Kiwis and Rugby League’s return to New Zealand.
“What a great feeling to finally have our Ferns and Kiwis back on the park, and even better at home,” said Peters.
“To celebrate Matariki weekend with an international Test double header that unites our fans and communities in celebration is special.
“We encourage everyone to make their way to Mt Smart come June 25 to break the crowd attendance record for a women’s Test and celebrate the return of international rugby league to New Zealand shores after some challenging years.”
Over the past half-decade New Zealand and Tonga have faced off just twice with the first of the two fixtures taking place in the group stage of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Heading into the game both sides were undefeated in the tournament and the result would decide who won the group.
New Zealand led the game 16-2 at halftime and looked set to progress to the quarter-finals without a single blemish on their win/loss record but the Tongan side would pull off a more than impressive comeback in the second half to win 28-22.
Tonga would then progress to the semi-final and come close to beating England while New Zealand was unceremoniously knocked out of the tournament by Fiji in the quarter-finals.
In 2019 New Zealand hosted a mid season test against Tonga as they will be on Saturday afternoon and on this occasion the Kiwis got their revenge by defeating Tonga 34-14 in a dominant display.
Kristian Woolf’s side will now be the ones seeking revenge on the 25th.