Hamilton Mayor Andrew King is urging friendly, peaceful and respectful rivalry among Tongan and Samoan league fans as the city prepares to host its first Rugby League World Cup 2017 fixture tomorrow.
Waikato Stadium is the venue for the Tonga vs Samoa match, and a large contingent of supporters is expected to descend on the city for the game, which kicks off at 7.30pm.
“Tonga and Samoa communities have a fantastic relationship – it’s a special bond and one underpinned by the importance of the Christian faith,” says Andrew.
“The two island nations also have a huge sporting rivalry – and that rivalry needs to stay on the field.”
Andrew's comments come in response to disorderly behaviour among Samoan and Tongan communities in South Auckland.
“We don’t want that sort of behaviour in Hamilton,” says Andrew. “We welcome good-natured support for these two teams, and we want to see respect for everyone involved in the game – the players, the officials, the staff running the event, and all the fans attending.”
He has echoed comments by senior members of the Tongan and Samoan communities – including South Auckland’s electorate MPs Aupito William Sio and Jenny Salesa, Kiwi-Samoan boxer David Tua – all of who have appealed for calm among fans.
Police have signalled they will not tolerate disorder and anti-social behaviour around Hamilton and security and police will have a big presence at the match.
Andrew says Hamilton’s focus has been on delivering a family-friendly weekend of events to support the match.
“We have a Pasifika Fan Fest on Saturday before the game and our Service of Celebration planned for Claudelands on Sunday - that’s our focus: safe and family-friendly fun.”