Andrew Fifita walked into the dressing room he once called his own after Tonga's loss to Australia to cheers from his former teammates, who handed him a beer.

Then they burst into song, calling for the Tongan prop to drink it like anyone else who walked into that dressing room.

"To be honest yeah, they did," Fifita said when asked if he was one of the players you could hear the Aussies cheering from the corridors beneath Mt Smart Stadium.

"It's just old rituals. I remember doing the left hand skoll. I don't really drink often now but when the boys ask you it's just mutual respect. It's not me but I do it for the boys because it's just the respect coming out of that game."

Respect - that was the theme of what was a monumental occasion for the international game, as the Tongan fans showed how to mix passion and patriotism with humility and reverence.

For Fifita, playing against the country he was born in and once represented was always going to be met with plenty of emotion.

"It was very humbling, I sang both national anthems, it was amazing, the atmosphere proved we really respected the opposition, you could hear the crowd singing both anthems," he said.

"There was too much respect coming out of myself. I grew up in Western Sydney. It's just the ultimate respect. The boys knew that.

"They had the opportunity to play New Zealand here last year. I felt how they felt last year. It was a privilege to verse them. I went and sat in there [Australian sheds] for half an hour with them. I enjoyed their company in there. It's all credit to Mal to be honest. He gave me this opportunity and he was grateful that I was doing it.

"To be honest it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. We're growing the international game. Even credit to Australia they were coming up to us after the game and saying how much this is bigger than Origin.

"When they were trying to talk they couldn't hear nothing. That's a credit to our fans. Our fans are loyal and they're really loud."

While the Tongans had nearly all the support of the 26,000 fans that poured into Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium, their inability to control the ball cost them any real chance of sending those adoring fans into a frenzy with what would have been a shock victory against the world champions.

"To be honest I just wish we had a trial game going into this game," Fifita said.

"To verse the world's best you have to be at your best. There were a few too many errors from our boys cost us a bit. We just needed the trial match to get on with it.

"But all credit to Australia. They came out to play, especially after last week. We were in the same situation as Australia last week. We all tried to do too much and it cost us heavily."

Fifita, who had the honour of leading the Tongan Sipi Tau before the game, admitted he had to learn the words before leading the emotion-charged cultural dance.

"The last World Cup, if we won that England game I was ready for the following week. In an indigenous way, it's a respect thing and a 'welcome to the country'. All the boys wanted me to lead it and I felt honoured to.

"I don't speak [Tongan] fluently, I had to learn it from the boys, we practised, to lead the war dance was amazing."

Fifita hopes the match against Australia is the start of bigger things to come for the Tongans.

"Our thing now is to build towards the next World Cup," he said.

"We're quite excited. Especially knowing our calendar next year. I know we have New Zealand for the next three years in the mid-year Test. And we have two games after the Nines next year. We're quite excited. We’re moving in the right direction. We’re quite happy about it."