The brightest young star in the NRL has made the startling admission that he could turn his back on the game in pursuit of an All Blacks jersey.
In news that is sure to concern league fans in Australia, gun Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga has indicated he could one day consider a return to rugby union, expressing his desire to pull on New Zealand’s iconic jersey.
Born in Western Australia but to Maori parents, the 20-year-old spent part of his childhood in New Zealand before moving back to Australia in his early teens.
After debuting with North Queensland in 2016, the fullback has shot to stardom in his first full season of the NRL and could go close to claiming this year’s Dally M Medal.
He also remains contracted to the Knights until the end of 2021, where he is charged with turning the club around alongside Mitchell Pearce and under coach Nathan Brown.
But it was in the 15-man game where he was first spotted on YouTube videos as a youngster, and he admits the All Blacks jersey may be a goal later in his career.
“Obviously, that (playing for the All Blacks) would be a huge goal, if I was to come back to union I’d want to tick,” Ponga told NZTV.co.nz.
“But I’m not too sure what my future holds whether I’m going to stay in league or change codes.
“But if I was to go back to rugby union I’d probably want to strive for that black jumper, it’s the pinnacle.”
Ponga this season made his State of Origin debut for Queensland after he chose to pledge his rugby league allegiances to Australia after previously being named in a Kiwi train-on squad in 2015.
If he was to switch back to union and pursue the New Zealand jumper, he would follow in the footsteps of former Brisbane forward Brad Thorn who played for both the Maroons in Origin and the All-Blacks in rugby.
“They’re the best sporting organisation in the world, stats have showed that,” Ponga said of the All Blacks.
“And the way they hold themselves, their values, their morals, the little things they do make them that step above everyone else,” he said.
“To put that jersey on would be special.”