International rugby league returns to Hamilton this weekend when the Great Britain Rugby League Lions clash with the Tonga Invitational XIII as part of the GB League Lions Tour and Oceania Cup 2019 series.
The match, kicking off at 8pm on Saturday 26 October, is the third international rugby league match to be held at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium Waikato – all of which have featured a team representing Tonga.
The match has an added historic aspect, with the Great Britain Rugby League Lions – comprising players from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland – assembling to play for the first time since 2007.
Sean Murray, Hamilton City Council’s General Manager of Venues, Tourism and Major Events, says the Tongan supporters bring a special energy, excitement and vigour to any match they attend.
“We were fortunate to host two matches featuring Tonga during the Rugby League World Cup 2017 and the atmosphere was incredible,” Mr Murray says.
“FMG Stadium Waikato was a sea of Tongan red, with the fans creating a crescendo of noise. It will be great to have that sort of energy in the venue again.”
Saturday’s event also includes a curtain-raiser, The Physically Disabled Rugby League South Pacific 9s Challenge, starting at 6pm.
Senior Sergeant Phil Ruddell of Hamilton Police says fans attending Saturday’s event should factor in Labour Weekend traffic into their plans.
“We are aware it is a holiday weekend and there may be some congestion on the roads before or after the game so plan ahead, be patient and don’t drink before driving,” Mr Ruddell says.
“Police want all the fans, from both the Lions and Tonga teams, to enjoy the occasion and keep themselves and friends safe.”
Public transport in Hamilton is free on the day to any match ticket holder.
The gates at FMG Stadium Waikato will open at 5pm on Saturday, with the box office open from 4pm for ticket sales.
Traffic control around the venue will be implemented from 4pm, and road closures include Mill St from Anglesea St to Norton Rd, Seddon Rd from Mill St to Goldsmith St, Tristram St from Mill St to Abbotsford St, and Abbotsford St from Tristram St to Willoughby St.
A transportation map on the FMG Stadium Waikato website also shows where e-scooter riders can leave their machines.
The Waikato District Health Board’s website publishes regularly updated information on the current measles outbreak in the upper North Island. People showing symptoms of the disease – or who have been in contact with those who have been confirmed as having measles – are being urged not to attend large public events.
Image credit: Photosport