Kalyn Ponga’s father has downplayed speculation that his son is in line for a cross-code move to rugby union ahead of the 2023 World Cup after previously unknown details of the NRL star’s contract were revealed last week.
Media reports uncovered that Ponga’s four-year deal with the Newcastle Knights has a player option that allows the 22-year-old the chance to back out of his current contract at the end of the 2022 season.
News of that clause renewed rumours that Ponga may have an eye on representing New Zealand at the next World Cup in France.
That gossip has been constant since Ponga revealed his ambitions to play for the All Blacks in an interview with TVNZ two years ago.
“That would be a huge goal, one that – if I was to come back to union – I’d want to tick, ” he said in 2018 of the prospect of potentially playing rugby union for New Zealand.
“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.”
However, his father Andre – who doubles as Ponga’s agent and manager – has moved to dampen suggestions that the former schoolboy star, who excelled across multiple sports including union during his youth, will make the move into the XV-man code.
“That’s a quote that everyone takes off and that’s understandable,” Andre told 1 News of his son’s comments from that infamous interview.
“Because of that Kiwi heritage, realistically it will always be there and it will always be speculation.”
While fans and media watch on in anticipation to see whether the Knights playmaker will make a bid to play at France 2023 to be seen, his father said his son’s focus for the time being remains firmly on Newcastle’s NRL prospects.
“He come out and said in the announcement of the new agreement that his main focus is winning an [NRL] Premiership,” Andre Ponga said.
“So if you look too far, you’ll miss out on what you’re trying to aim for at the moment.”
After making his NRL debut with the North Queensland Cowboys as a teenager in 2016, Ponga is yet to taste title-winning success in the competition.
He has, however, knocked back the chance to represent New Zealand in rugby league, instead pledging his allegiance with his birth nation Australia.
Ponga has subsequently won last year’s World Cup 9s while playing for Australia, and has played in three matches for Queensland across two State of Origin series between 2018 and 2019.
A shoulder injury has ruled the Maori All-Stars representative out of this year’s series, though, with Andre Ponga noting that his son’s recovery from the labral tear he sustained at the end of this season’s NRL is a priority.
“We’ve got to get him back on the park, got to get him playing good football again, and the Knights is the focus.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now