Australian coach Mal Meninga has called for pay parity between nations for future Tests as Kangaroos captain Boyd Cordner declared he and his team-mates would again be willing to take a pay cut to play more games in green and gold.
After completing their final training session ahead of Saturday night's historic Test against Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium, Meninga and the Australian players are looking forward to an electric atmosphere to rival that at World Cup matches featuring the island kingdom.
There has been an acknowledgement from the Tonga camp that the Test would not have gone ahead if the Kangaroos hadn't agreed to take a 75 per cent pay cut to their usual $20,000 playing fee.
As part of the deal, the Tonga players will be paid the same amount as their Australian counterparts and Meninga said the arrangement should be extended to future Tests.
"I would say they should be paid a dollar if the game is making a dollar out of these games but I just think it should be fair and equitable among all the nations," Meninga said. "Whether they are getting $3000 or $5000 or $10,000 I just think it should be equal for all countries."
Meninga and Tonga coach Kristian Woolf worked for months to organise the Test, but it looked like falling through until NRL CEO Todd Greenberg convinced NZRL officials to allow Australia to play Tonga in Auckland.
To make the Test financially viable, the Kangaroos needed to take a massive reduction and Meninga phoned senior players – including Cordner - to ask if they were willing to do so.
"They wanted this game and so did we. We wanted it just as bad," Cordner said. "If you go through the boys and ask them if they would play this game for free, they would."
Meninga added: "It wasn't a hard conversation. They just put their hands up straight away and said they are willing to play for their country, like Boyd said, for nothing. That is a tremendous attitude to do that".
Asked if the players would be willing to take another pay cut to ensure Tests against other countries, Cordner said: "Yep, I would".
The Australians insist their willingness to sacrifice money to play for their country demonstrates how passionate they are about the green-and-gold jersey.
"There was a lot of talk about the pay cut and everything like that, and how passionate Tonga is, but it is just the same for Australia – or it is for me,” Cordner said: "I love this jersey and it is the pinnacle of rugby league to play for your country.
"It has always been a dream of mine since I could remember so for me it means everything. I think Mal might have spoken to a few players to let us know what was going to happen and what was required to let this game go ahead. For myself, I was more than happy to."
Meninga said the anticipation in Auckland ahead of the Test reminds him of when he played the first of his 46 Tests for Australia in 1982 and he believes the international game can go from strength to strength if officials can find a way to ensure they are financially viable.
"Based on the revenue that they felt they could get out of this game that is how they worked out what they could pay the players," Meninga said. "It is just based on finances. We made sure it was all equitable again, so that both sides get paid equal.
"I think all the national teams are starting to get it now how important the nationalcolours are and once the fans see that type of passion and willingness to play for their countries the fans will start to flock to games, I believe, and we will start playing in front of big crowds."