Tonga and its many expatriates in New Zealand will be the toast of at least two countries tonight if they can defeat England at Mt Smart and make the final of the Rugby League World Cup.
Many of the Kiwis' disappointed loyal supporters will have transferred their allegiance to our Polynesian neighbour after defeat by Fiji last Saturday. What a pity it would be if a Tongan victory was spoiled by the behaviour of celebrating fans tonight.
The incidents that occurred earlier this month ought not be repeated. The clashes between Tongan and Samoan supporters in South Auckland even before the two teams met in Hamilton were unfair to the sporting attitudes of the majority. At the game itself, as in victory over the Kiwis, the exuberant, boisterous crowd was a better representation of the way the vast majority of Pacific people get involved in the game.
Those Tongan crowds were a sheer delight, particularly in this country where sports fans are generally more subdued than they are in most countries. If Tonga wins its first World Cup semifinal today, the joy of supporters will be something to behold. It will be shared by all New Zealanders, perhaps including English immigrants, for it would be an important moment for rugby league.
Already Tonga's success is being hailed as a widening of the game's competitive ranks, helped by the defection of Kiwis and Wallabies with Tongan heritage. Already New Zealand league seems reconciled to the defections. If Tonga makes the final it will be a boil-over of joy. Go bros.