Rugby league superstar Kalyn Ponga has reportedly been approached by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika about making a dramatic code switch.
The Newcastle Knights and Queensland Maroons fullback was said to have been phoned personally by Cheika to ask if he could be persuaded to move back to the 15-man game, which he played as a schoolboy in New Zealand, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Cheika reportedly confirmed to the newspaper that he did call Ponga to discuss a potential move to union late last year.
But with the 21-year-old’s future currently unclear after putting contract talks with Newcastle on hold until 2021, the Australia national team boss would not reveal the outcome of the conversation as the player is focused on playing for the Knights and Queensland.
If he did revert back to union, Ponga would be eligible for the All Blacks, having grown up in Palmerston North between the ages of eight and 13.
But the Telegraph also quoted an unnamed source close to Rugby Australia who said: “There would be no embarrassment in trying to get Kalyn Ponga to rugby union. That would be smart.”
Last year, Ponga spoke of his long-term ambitions to represent the All Blacks, despite being born and having been raised for the majority of his childhood and adolescence in Australia.
“Obviously, yeah, that would be a huge goal,” he told Marae in 2018.
“If I was to go back to rugby union, I probably would strive for that black jumper. It’s the pinnacle.
“They are the best sporting organisation in the world, stats have showed that, and the way they hold themselves, their values and their morals, just the little things they do make them that step above everyone else, so to put that jersey on would be pretty special.
“I’ve got three years with my contract at the Knights, and I’ve got some things I want to achieve in that time, and I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of that, but I’ve always wanted to be the best, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
Ponga was a standout in a star-studded 1st XV squad for Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane in 2014, with a highlights reel of his exploits from fullback going viral five years ago.
He was one of eight players from that side that has gone on to play professionally in either league or union.
Ex-Reds wing Izaia Perese, who is now contracted to the Brisbane Broncos, is one of four players from the 2014 Churchie 1st XV, including Ponga, who is signed to an NRL team, as is Broncos teammate Jaydn Sua and Brodie Croft of the Melbourne Storm.
The coach of the side, Jason Gilmore, has also moved into the professional ranks, going on to take up various coaching roles with the Reds, as both an assistant and youth development coach, and with Rugby Australia, as coach of the nation’s U20 side.
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