The proposed match between Tonga and New Zealand Māori next month is off the agenda - but expect both teams to be more involved in the international calendar in the coming years.

The test, which was set to be played in Rotorua on Friday October 12, was canned after a lack of support from stakeholders and concerns over the short time frame.

It was seen as a lead-in towards Tonga's clash with Australia in Auckland a week later.

It would also have been an important hit-out for the Māori side, who haven't played an international team since they faced England in 2010.

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The game was looking likely until last Sunday, when some NRL clubs pushed back over releasing another block of players, particularly for the Māori team.

It's understood the Rugby League Players Association also raised some player welfare issues, while the NRL were reluctant to commit significant resources to the match, having worked hard to get the Kangaroos versus Tonga clash in Auckland across the line.

"It was close to coming together and there were a lot of benefits," said match promoter Justin Wallace. "But ultimately we couldn't get it across the line, which is a real shame. But this process has shown there is a real appetite for these kind of fixtures, and it's something we will be working on."

It's a setback for Mate Ma'a Tonga, who now won't have a match before facing Australia, while Mal Meninga's team will gain vital cohesion and conditioning from the test against the Kiwis on October 13.

"We were very keen to do it," said Tonga coach Kristian Woolf. "It would have been perfect for us but in the end there wasn't enough support from other areas."

Woolf added that he understood the various concerns.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
18 Sep, 2018 7:30am
3 minutes to read

"We are very grateful for the game coming up [against the Kangaroos]," said Woolf.

"Another one would have been great but the logistics and timing were tricky. It's not ideal [to not play], but it's a little hurdle we will have to overcome."

Woolf also confirmed that despite RLPA concerns, the squad was keen to don the red jersey in Rotorua.

"The players were really excited," said Woolf. "They were all calling me and keen to play."

Woolf's sentiments are echoed from the Māori side, who could have put together a strong lineup, ahead of the next February's All Stars clash in Melbourne.

"It's disappointing," agreed New Zealand Māori Rugby League chairman John Devonshire. "It would have been huge, and a great platform for indigenous league. It would have been great to get our boys together and there was a lot of interest from the players."

But Devonshire concedes the timing was "a bit tight", but he remains hopeful of additional matches in the future.

New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters says the proposed fixture had too many challenges.

"We are very supportive of New Zealand Māori having more games," said Peters. "But there were some issues with this game; especially the short window and the proximity to the Kiwis test match (versus Kangaroos). There were also questions raised over insurance, player workload and player release."

But Peters confirmed he was working on plans for a New Zealand Māori match in 2019, aside from the All-Stars game, possibly involving another Pacific nation.

"There are a few ideas around and it looks promising," said Peters. "It's certainly something that we want to help facilitate."