Kiwis coach believes Tonga vs NZ could be our own 'State of Origin'

Headlines 12/11/2018

Kiwis coach Michael Maguire couldn't help but reflect on his side's missed opportunities in the first two tests against England, after their 34-0 demolition of the Lions in Leeds on Monday morning (NZ time).

But with his first series under his belt, Maguire's attention has quickly shifted to June's clash with emerging international heavyweights Tonga.

The game is a chance for redemption, after the Kiwis' World Cup loss to the Pacific Islanders and Maguire believes the fixture has the potential to become a mainstay as New Zealand's very own 'State of Origin'.

"It's definitely got an opportunity to do that," said Maguire. "I'd like to see that.

"It's obviously going to be played on that stand-alone weekend, so what a weekend of rugby league that's going to be.

"Culturally, the things you can do around those games... I think it's going to be a spectacular weekend."

Last month, Auckland's Tongan community emerged en masse to support their team in a historic clash against Australia, covering Mt Smart Stadium in red and bringing a level of passion to their fandom that's seldom - if ever - seen on NZ soil.

While plenty of off-field factors would come into consideration - including how and by whom the Tonga players would be paid - the level of local interest and enthusiasm would be undeniable.

Meanwhile, Maguire is encouraged by what he's seen brewing within his squad throughout their UK tour and is eager to see that momentum continue.

"The players themselves have got to realise that this jersey is a special jersey and taking this forward, you're very lucky to be a part of it.

"All the players back home wanting to be a part of this jersey is something this group has started and they're building in a big way.

"I've got a belief in this group. In the relationships that they've gained over the last five weeks, there's a real strong bond between this team and I think it's very exciting for New Zealand Rugby League moving forward."

The win sees Maguire finish his first term in charge with a record of two wins and three losses, of which the clear highlight was an upset victory over world champions Australia in a rare home test.

Despite the 2-1 series loss to England, the Australian says his side have learned plenty from their narrow opening losses.

"[England] showed what test match footy is all about and I think our boys took that forward into this game and realised what you need to do. Every play counts in a test match and that's how you build pressure."

Credit to Newshub.