The name Kalyn Ponga might not be well known in the rugby union circles but the NRL sensation is widely regarded as one of rugby leagues' brightest talents and he has hopes of playing for the All Blacks.
Ponga was born in Western Australia to New Zealand-born parents and is of Māori descent and spent the first eight years of his life living in Mount Isa, Queensland before moving to Palmerston North, New Zealand in 2006. At the age of 13, his family returned to Australia and just two years later the multi-talented youngster was courted by no less than six professional clubs from across three different sports. He ended up signing for rugby league side North Queensland Cowboys before joining Newcastle Knights in 2018.
Ponga is now set to sign a long-term deal to remain in the NRL however the door will remain open to try his chances at making the All Blacks, according to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald.
The 21-year-old will sign a four-year deal with the Newcastle Knights, worth a staggering $4.5m, making him one of the highest earning players in the league's history. However, the report does state that the fullback's new contract will include an option that would allow him to try his hand at rugby and attempt to crack the All Blacks' side for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Ponga turned down the Kiwis in 2018 to align with Queensland, but could yet represent New Zealand one day. The youngster told TVNZ that he has aspirations of representing the All Blacks one day calling it 'the pinnacle':
"Obviously, that (playing for the All Blacks) would be a huge goal, if I was to come back to union I'd want to tick," Ponga told TVNZ in 2018.
"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."
The Knights are set to offer a $1.1m a year deal to Ponga with Knights revealing to the Sydney Morning Herald that they are looking at upgrading Ponga's current deal and that he would "be really surprised if the All Blacks weren't talking to him now".
"He could play for the All Blacks, the Wallabies, or he may end up going to Japan or Europe. We genuinely want the best for the young man and while ever he wants to play rugby league, we want him to play here at Newcastle in an environment he enjoys.
"We have obviously put a deal forward that we believe is in the best interest of the club, but also in the best interest of him."
The Knights are keen to have Ponga on their books for as long as possible and have previously discussed an extension through until the end of 2025, though have since resolved that an upgrade on his current deal through to 2023 is more realistic.