The days of Tonga being the poor cousins of international league might be over.

It's taken Australia almost 30 years to have a game with Tonga, since they first came onto the international stage in 1995, but the Pacific nation won't have to wait decades for their next crack at the Kangaroos.

The huge popularity of the Tongan team – evidenced by the confirmation yesterday that the Australia-Tonga test on Saturday is officially sold out – is manna from heaven for league administrators.

Every seat at Mt Smart is taken (around 26,500) while organisers have also released another 1,400 tickets for people to sit on the grass bank.


[Read more: Jason Taumalolo on the Tongan league revolution he helped create]

It's something that will make administrators in Australia stand up and take notice, and prompt further initiatives.

International league has often struggled for prominence between the World Cup years, given the overwhelming focus on the NRL, the length of the season and the annual bonanza that is the State of Origin.

But Tonga, with a resident population of around 300,000, will help to put the international game back in focus.

The match on Saturday is likely to be a career highlight for both sets of players, for the unique nature of the occasion and the atmosphere and tribalism the Tongan community bring in their support.

It's also a great look for the game, with a full house and a team that taps into the very heartland of the sport.

So why wouldn't you want more?

Tonga will play the Kiwis in Auckland next June, but Australia may also fix another date in the Queen city in the future, or opt to face Tonga in Sydney. Why not?


Over the last few years, Tonga, along with Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, have been banging down doors in the halls of power to get a game here and there, and it hasn't been easy.

The NRL certainly deserve credit for staging the Pacific series since 2013, as that has been vital in the development of the Tier two nations.

But Tonga has perhaps outgrown that sphere, and one suspects that phone calls will go in the other direction from now on, as they will have no shortage of suitors.