30 December, 2017. Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has given his backing for a reported rugby league test between Australia and Tonga that could take place in Hawaii next year.
Tonga's efforts at the Rugby League World Cup last month raised their popularity and profile to unprecedented levels as they beat New Zealand during their magical march to the semifinals.
England ended Tonga's dream with a dramatic 20-18 victory in Auckland to reach the final, which was won 6-0 by the all-conquering Kangaroos in Brisbane, and Australia's Daily Telegraph report that negotiations are under way to stage a groundbreaking test match between Australia and Tonga at Honolulu's 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium in 2018.
Interest in Tonga's World Cup campaign spiked when the likes of Jason Taumalolo (New Zealand) and Andrew Fifita (Australia) opted to instead represent Tonga just as squads for the tournament were being announced.
England host New Zealand in three tests after the end of the next NRL season and Australian officials are planning a showdown between the world champion Kangaroos and Tonga in the weeks following the grand final.
Meninga revealed that talks for said potential test had been positive.
"At the moment we've got no money in the bank, but we are talking and ideally we'd like to play a test match against Tonga at the end of next year," Meninga told the Daily Telegraph.
"We've got a test against New Zealand already, but I'd like to think we can do something special with Tonga as well.
"We want to make it exciting for the players and have something to inspire people to want to play international footy.
"On the back of the World Cup, I believe we've got to play more games.
"We've got to be mindful of player welfare and that's why anything we do has to be a genuine test match."
The NRL last month announced plans to stage three tests during the State of Origin bye week and Tonga, as well as Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Lebanon, have been locked in to take part for a three-match festival at Sydney's Campbelltown Stadium on June 23.