Meninga pushes for return to old Kangaroo tours
STRIKE while the iron is hot.
That's the plea from Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, after he watched his charges win a high-octane contest against the Mate Ma'a in front of a sell-out heavily pro-Tongan crowd at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night.
The red-clad supporters weren't concerned about their heroes being on the wrong end of the 34-16 scoreline, they were just ecstatic to even have the chance to take on the world champions.
They won't remember Daly Cherry-Evans streaking away against the run of play to score the opening try, they'll remember Will Hopoate and Sika Manu standing shoulder to shoulder with tears streaming down their faces as the national anthem rang out.
Or Andrew Fifita taking centre stage as the players turned warriors during the spine-tingling Sipi Tau.
Meninga witnessed similar scenes in Port Moresby earlier this month when he ventured to PNG with the Prime Minister's XIII side. And he stresses the Samoans and Fijians would also offer that same wonderful exposure for the international game.
So, as he said in the post-match presser, "We've got to keep going, we can't just rest on our laurels."
"We can't just say 'What a great experience that was' and 'how good was that'. We've got to continually make sure we're playing more games, particularly for us, from the Kangaroos perspective keep on pushing footy in the Pacific Rim.
"Samoan people are just as passionate, Fijian people are just as passionate. You know the Papua New Guineans, we just came back from a trip up there, they're mad, they're fanatical.
"So, on the back of what happened last week, we're kind of hoping the New Zealand people see how passionate their team are and want to follow them.
"We've just got to keep on going."
While bolstering the international game through the Pacific Islands is a priority, Meninga also believes rugby league is missing a trick by overlooking Kangaroo tours.
There's probably no greater authority on the subject, with the 13th Immortal being the only player to have gone on four tours of Great Britain, and to have been captain on two of them.
"I think we need to go to the Northern Hemisphere but I'm not quite sure where that is all at," he continued.
"I believe we need to get back to those old Kangaroo Tours, I think it's the right time to do that.
"But I'm not quite sure what will happen. I know all teams will play more representative games but in what form I'm not quite sure.
"I think we've got an obligation as the Kangaroos to promote the game internationally."