'One of a kind': Kalyn Ponga backed by cross-code Wallabies star to push for All Blacks
Former Brisbane Broncos star Karmichael Hunt believes NRL youngster Kalyn Ponga has all the attributes required to flourish in rugby union if he committed to a cross-code switch.
Plenty of media attention has surrounded Ponga in recent weeks after the Newcastle Knights fullback was reportedly offered a four-year contract extension by his NRL club which included a clause to allow him to pursue his rugby union ambitions in 2023.
The 21-year-old, who has also represented Queensland, the Maori All-Stars and the Australia Nines side, has previously expressed his desire to play for the All Blacks, and could push for a spot in New Zealand’s 2023 World Cup squad if his proposed deal comes to fruition.
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Despite being born in Western Australia and aligning himself with the Kangaroos in rugby league, Ponga is eligible to represent the All Blacks as both of his parents are Kiwi-born while he also spent six years of his childhood living in Palmerston North.
Although former All Blacks and Warriors wing Sir John Kirwan voiced his concerns about Ponga’s potential switch earlier this week, Hunt labelled the Knights’ key man as “a remarkable talent” and that he “would not want to put any limits on him”.
A former All Blacks star has labelled Kalyn Ponga's potential move from the NRL to rugby union as "high risk". https://t.co/B4NFH0bzGP
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 2, 2020
The 33-year-old is well-accustomed to the rigours of moving between codes after having done it multiple times throughout his career.
Hunt burst onto the rugby league scene with the Broncos as a 17-year-old in 2004, claiming an NRL crown with the Brisbane club two years later while also going on to represent Queensland and Australia.
He then made a six-month move to French rugby union club Biarritz, who he helped reach the 2010 Heineken Cup final, before relocating back to Australia to take up a lucrative three-year deal with the Gold Coast Suns in the AFL.
In 2015, he then came back to rugby union, inking a deal with the Reds in Super Rugby, who he played for until last season before switching to the Waratahs.
The six-test Wallabies midfielder told the Daily Telegraph that Ponga’s background in rugby union would be key to his success if he transitioned back to the XV-man code.
“Kalyn played at Churchie Anglican Church Grammar so he’s got schoolboy experience, he’s not just a running threat, he can play the ball as well,” Hunt said.
“His game, from a league perspective, he will likely transition from No.1 [fullback] to No.6 [standoff] and be a predominant ballplayer, which if you translate to rugby, if he’s got the ability to play the ball as well as run, you can slot him at fullback with his running, kicking and ball-playing ability, but he can also play in your midfield as well.”
Ponga was a star for Anglican Church Grammar School’s 1st XV in 2013 and 2014, where he played alongside the likes of Reds captain Liam Wright, Waratahs playmaker Mack Mason, Reds loose forward Angus Scott-Young, former Rebels No. 8 Harley Fox and ex-Reds and current Broncos wing Izaia Perese.
Their coach at the time was current Junior Wallabies boss Jason Gilmore.
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