Hawaii? Let’s go! Roos chase historic clash
CAMERON Smith and the Australian Kangaroos playing in a historic Test match against Jason Taumalolo's Tongans in the Paradise of the Pacific.
Sounds like a pipedream, but you better get your surfboard ready because The Daily Telegraph can reveal Kangaroos are in secret negotiations with Tonga to play a rugby league Test in Hawaii next year.
Australian officials, including coach Mal Meninga, are behind the plan to stage the groundbreaking event at Honolulu's 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium.
In a bid to capitalise on the popularity of new rugby league power Tonga following the Mate Ma'a's efforts to reach the World Cup semi-finals, officials are looking to play the match in October 2018 in the weeks following the NRL grand final.
Talks about an Australia versus Tonga Test in Hawaii have been positive, but Meninga says the game requires funding from the NRL and the International Federation to become a reality.
"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 said.
"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."
Meninga also wants to play in Hawaii to capitalise on the fact the 2025 Rugby League World Cup will be played in the United States and Canada.
He believes league has an opportunity to stake a claim in the Aloha State with the nation's traditional American football Pro Bowl being played in Florida for the second consecutive season late next month.
"We've got to expose our game to the people over there," he said.
"That's why I think we've got to think big and how we can showcase our game to other markets and America is certainly one of those.
"I think they love our collision sports and it's a huge market, so the best way to tap into it is to showcase genuine international Test matches.
With Tonga at this stage only looking at one Test next year - against either New Zealand or Samoa during the season - a clash with Smith and the Kangaroos in Oahu could also help the Pacific island nation retain players like Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita, Michael Jennings, Manu Ma'u, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and David Fusitu'a.
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has previously said it would be up to Taumalolo to decide if he wanted to return to New Zealand, while he conceded his side's one Test in 2018 could count against the Mate Ma'a retaining the dual Dally M winner long-term.
Significantly reduced player wages compared to the top-tier nations could also hurt the Tongan's bid to keep its big name players, but Meninga says money isn't the issue.
He revealed his Kangaroos players were ready to take cuts to ensure greater parity for international player wages.
"I think it's all about the opportunity to play Test match footy for your country," he said.
"There is some inequality around the funding, but I know our Kangaroos players are all willing to negotiate that to be fair on player payments.
"Because it's about the Test jersey and it's not about how much money you make."