Queensland State of Origin side’s fullback Kalyn Ponga has refused to speculate about a future in rugby but has boldly declared he wants to be the next Johnathan Thurston.
Ponga confirmed Wallabies coach Michael Cheika called him but repeatedly knocked back questions on Tuesday about a possible code switch.
It was revealed last week that Cheika spoke with 21-year-old Ponga in what was believed to be a bid to lure the NRL superstar to rugby.
Ponga – contracted to NRL club Newcastle until the end of the 2021 season – was in no mood to expand on his conversation with Cheika when asked about it before Sunday’s State of Origin II clash in Perth.
“That (call) was ages ago. But I don’t want to touch on that,” Ponga, who described himself as a “New Zealander/Queenslander”, said.
However, the Maroons fullback did detail his rugby league plans, saying he wanted to emulate NRL great and former North Queensland teammate Thurston.
Ponga made his NRL debut at the Cowboys and played alongside future Immortal Thurston in 2016 and 2017 before his move to the Knights.
Ponga missed a chance to play Origin with his idol Thurston, who retired from representative football last year.
However, before his third Origin game Ponga said he was an instinctive player similar to Thurston.
“I would love to be the next JT. That would be cool,” he said.
“JT is one of the those blokes who doesn’t know what he is going to do, he just does it.
“As someone learning I was just watching what he was doing more than him telling me (at Cowboys) because he is just a freak, and does things off the cuff.
“It was inspiring.”
Ponga hoped to take his first step toward emulating his hero in Origin II – just his second game starting at the back for the Maroons.
“The first 10-20 minutes was the fastest footy I had played but I felt comfortable,” he said of of Queensland’s 18-14 Origin I win.
“I want to build on my last performance and get better.
“And winning the last game, the feeling is something you can’t describe but I want to feel it again.”
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