Published by Staff Writers 22 August 2018 on foxsports.com.au
KALYN Ponga’s dream to one day represent the All Blacks in rugby should send a rocket through NRL headquarters, according to Matthew Johns.
Ponga this week admitted he would like to jump codes to rugby union in order to have a crack at playing for New Zealand’s national side at some stage in his career.
He’s contracted to Newcastle for the next three years and is considered the best young talent in rugby league.
But at 20 years old, the sporting whizkid should have at least a decade as a professional athlete ahead of him. And he’s expressed a desire to return to the 15-man code.
“Any kid who has grown up in New Zealand would have an ambition to play for the All Blacks. There’s nothing wrong with that at all,” Johns told Triple M Grill Team on Wednesday.
“That should send out a little warning signal … not so much to the Newcastle Knights, but to the powers that be in rugby league.
“An incredibly talented young man who the All Blacks would look at and say we would love to have that kid one day, that he looks at the All Blacks and describes them as the pinnacle.
“I think at the end of this year Mal Meninga is going to pick a (Kangaroos) side, and I think Kalyn would absolutely be a chance to be named in that squad.
“But Kalyn looks and says one day, after I’ve achieved everything in rugby league, then it’s the All Blacks. Good on him, I don’t blame him for that.
“If I was a young kid and had the opportunity to play for the All Blacks why wouldn’t you? They are a world brand in sport.”
Ponga is eligible to represent both Australia and New Zealand.
After spending two years deliberating on his allegiance, earlier this year he pledged it to Australia and Queensland.
“I’ve always felt comfortable at heart here in Australia. I was born here and did my schooling here,” Ponga told the Courier Mail at the time.
“To be honest it wasn’t really that tough. I knew at heart that I wanted to pledge my allegiance to Queensland and Australia.”
He made his State of Origin debut for Queensland in June, and could be named in Mal Meninga’s Australian team at the end of the year.
But Johns is worried the Kangaroos aren’t held in the same esteem as the All Blacks, who are considered one of the world’s best sporting teams.
And Johns says Ponga’s admission should act as a warning to rugby league to raise the profile of the international game.
“If I’m Todd Greenberg, that for me is a little warning shot,” Johns said.
“Let’s help Mal Meninga. Mal Meninga has done a great job with the Kangaroos brand, (but) we’ve got to do more.”