Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has challenged Gold Coast rugby league supporters to embrace Saturday’s historic Pacific Test triple-header at cBus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.
Wet weather threatens to ruin the chances of a big turnout with organisers of the belief that a crowd anywhere above 10,000 would be considered a success.
A feast of international rugby league awaits those who choose to brave the conditions, with the Samoa v Tonga main event to be preceded by clashes between Papua New Guinea and Fiji, and the Junior Kangaroos and Junior Kiwis.
Woolf has fond memories of the 2013 Pacific Test, which Tonga won 36-4 in front of 10,143 rowdy fans in Penrith – but memorably, the game had to be ended early due to over-enthusiastic pitch invaders.
“That was certainly one of the most passionate crowds I’ve ever seen at any level of football,” Woolf said.
“It was so passionate that people ran from everywhere to get on the field at the end of the game and the game couldn’t be finished.
“It was outstanding and I hope people make the same effort to come and watch the game tomorrow night.”
Samoa coach Matt Parish said he was hopeful that Gold Coast locals, who have deserted the Titans in numbers and failed to adequately support the Anzac Test and NRL All Stars fixtures when they were held at Robina, will get behind what promises to be a unique program.
“I can only judge by the fan day and it was very passionate. There was plenty there,” Parish said.
“Hopefully again they’ll turn out tomorrow night, but I’ll suppose we’ll see.
“The quality of the four teams playing, there’s some good players and it’s not going to be a conventional NRL game, so it could be quite exciting.”
Saturday’s clash with Tonga is the first for Samoa since their involvement with last year’s Four Nations tournament.
It is also looming as possibly their last Test for the year, unless the plans Parish hinted at for more international fixtures at the end of the NRL season come to fruition.
Parish said it was vital for the Pacific Island nations to play more often against the likes of Australia, New Zealand and England, or the gulf in quality between them and the top nations will never be bridged.
“This will be a very good game tomorrow night between two competitive teams but for our nations to develop, we need to play competition against leading nations,” he said.
“Fiji, PNG, I’d include them in it too. I can’t see Italy or France or anyone like that competing against the other three nations but I can certainly see the Pacific Islands definitely competing.
“The Four Nations is over but it showed with the right preparation and players the Pacific nations can compete.”