Pacific teams out to shrug minnows tag
It has all the hallmarks of being the most exhilarating rugby league double-header ever seen but members of Pacific nations teams competing at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday are determined to prove they are no longer minnows.
The 2013 Rugby League World Cup gave the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga the platform to show they can match it with the world's best teams while the Papua New Guinea Kumuls have been bolstered by the emergence of the PNG Hunters in the Intrust Super Cup the past two years.
By accounting for Samoa in the quarter-finals Fiji were semi-finalists at the 2013 World Cup but the Samoans exacted some revenge in last year's Pacific Test, their 32-16 win earning them qualification for the Four Nations tournament.
It was there that they threatened to turn the rugby league world on its head by leading both England and New Zealand late in the second half of their two opening games and winger Daniel Vidot believes their performances earned them new-found and long-awaited respect.
"I don't think the Kiwis were expecting us to play like that and that's what it's like with the Pacific nations. We play with our hearts on our sleeves and put 110 per cent into everything we do," said Vidot.
"We've got lots of guns in the team who have proven themselves in the NRL so it's going to be an exciting weekend of action. The same as PNG and Fiji, they're awesome teams as well, so it's going to be a good Saturday night here on the 'Goldie'.
"We actually went into that England game, the first game of Four Nations wanting to win that. We didn't want to just be another number and to put Samoa on the map in rugby league. I think the boys have achieved that and all teams who come up against us are a bit more wary of us and the strengths that we have.
"We shocked the rugby league world last year with lots of close encounters but unfortunately not getting the end result just makes us more thirsty for it.
"We know we've got the potential now so that's a positive thing that comes out of it."
An unheralded Tongan team shocked Samoa two years ago in the Pacific Test by recording a thumping 36-4 win but were defeated 32-18 by PNG in a one-off Test last year.
Emerging youngsters such as Konrad Hurrell, Solomone Kata, Tuimoala Lolohea, Siosiua Taukeiaho and Albert Vete have declared their allegiances to Tonga and captain Sika Manu said it was important for their nation's rugby league development that they get the support they need to continue to play for Tonga.
"It's massive mate. I don't think many people know how big it is for us as players and how big it is for our countries," Manu said of the chance to represent Tonga.
"They're still early in their careers but they seem like they really want to play for Tonga in the future as well and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to make our countries No.1 before any other country. It's a work in progress but hopefully we get there soon.
"A few NRL clubs have pulled players out and they just don't get how much it means to us to play for our countries. It's massive and hopefully the success of this weekend we can push for more of these sorts of weekends to happen in the years to come.
"We need more support from the NRL and the NRL clubs to push their players to play for their countries.
"There is a lot of good talent in the islander teams but a lot of clubs pull them out and don't let them play in these sorts of Tests so we just need support from all the NRL clubs and the NRL itself."