After being forced to give up his chance of a maiden New Zealand jumper, Canterbury try-scoring whiz Curtis Rona is hungrily eyeing a shot at May’s trans-Tasman Test.
On the back of a breakout 2015 season, falling just shy of finishing as the NRL’s top try-scorer, the Bulldogs winger was named in Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney’s squad to tour Great Britain.
But his tour was cut short when his wife Jacinta went into labour with their first child ahead of the third Test in Wigan.
He chose family ahead of football and made a 30-hour desperate dash back to Sydney, arriving just in time to witness the birth of his daughter Sapphire.
“It was a tough decision but I got the phone call from my wife saying ‘the baby’s going to come any second’, she just felt it,” Rona said.
“I went to Stephen Kearney and asked him could I leave a little bit earlier from the tour and he said yeah and I have so much more respect for him now. He said: ‘go and be with your family, be there for your wife’.”
While he was not picked for the first two Tests behind Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Jason Nightingale, and faces greater competition to break into the Kiwi squad with Dallin Watene-Zelenziak and Manu Vatuvei returning from injury this year, the experience made him even hungrier for a debut Test cap.
He finished last year with 22 tries – just two behind Parramatta behemoth Semi Radradra – and said his task is simple if he wants that first Kiwi jumper – just keep finding the line.
“I’m dying to play in that black jersey,” Rona said.
“If I get the chance to play in the Anzac Test, I’ll be really excited for that.
“To be amongst the contenders is a big bonus but my ultimate goal was to play (for New Zealand).
“I’m just worrying about the first few rounds for the Bulldogs and getting my form back and if all goes well I can get picked in that Kiwi side.”