Australia and Queensland appear to have won a tug of war for the services of rugby league’s hottest young property, Kalyn Ponga.
The 18-year-old has resisted overtures from New Zealand to pledge his allegiance to Australia, according to North Queensland teammate Johnathan Thurston.
Born to a New Zealand father, the former Brisbane schoolboys rugby star was eligible for both countries however has seemingly chosen to play for Australia having grown up in the country.
“I think he’s leapt towards the Kangaroos,” Thurston told New Zealand radio station Newshub.
“He pretty much made (the decision) on his own. His family’s from here in New Zealand and he’s spent most of his time growing up in Queensland.
“He feels as though he’s an Aussie, he feels as though he’s a Queenslander, and I think that’s what got him over the line.”
Rated a future star of the game, Ponga made his NRL debut on the wing in the Cowboys’ finals win over Brisbane last month.
Ponga was chased by six clubs and four sports including Australian rules and rugby union before committing to the Cowboys.
He last year roomed with Warriors sensation Roger Tuivasa-Sheck during a New Zealand training camp but was also earlier this year a part of a Queensland under-20s development squad.
His decision to stick with Australia would be a big blow for the Kiwis and a massive boon for the Maroons and Kangaroos.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said earlier this year he had no doubt Ponga was committing to Australia after being a part of the junior Maroons camp.
However New Zealand coach David Kidwell said on Tuesday he was hopeful of seeing Ponga in a Kiwi Test jersey.