Cowboys' Ponga commits to Roos: Thurston
Photo Source: AAP
Australia and Queensland appear to have won the tug of war for the services of rugby league's hottest young property Kalyn Ponga.
While the Queensland Rugby League and NRL said they had not received official advice from Ponga's camp, North Queensland teammate Johnathan Thurston suggested he had resisted overtures from New Zealand to pledge his allegiance to Australia.
The 18-year-old - who has been described as the next Johnathan Thurston - has a New Zealand father but was born in Western Australia, making him eligible for both countries.
His allegiance is as clear as mud - he was a part of the New Zealand train-on squad last year and Kiwis coach David Kidwell said on Wednesday he hoped to see Ponga wearing a black jumper in the near future.
A NZRL spokesman also said they had received no advice on his allegiance.
He attended a Queensland development camp earlier in the year and had been in the Queensland system since he was 14 and represented the state at junior level.
He is not expected to make an official call on his eligibility until next year's junior Test between the Kiwis and Australia - which he sat out last year because he was still making up his mind.
However, Thurston indicated Ponga was leaning towards representing the Kangaroos and Maroons in a major boon for their stocks.
"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, Ponga made his NRL debut on the wing in the Cowboys' semi-final win last month over Brisbane.
He didn't take long to prove his class, making a scything run down the left flank in which he turned several defenders inside out to almost score.
He made his second appearance the following week in the Cowboys' loss to Cronulla and is expected to be a fixture of Paul Green's side next year.
Blessed with deft touch and footwork, he is being eyed by the Cowboys as Thurston's long-term halves replacement however Green has called for fans and commentators to curb their expectations given he is still developing.
The former Brisbane schoolboy rugby union star was chased by four sports and six clubs, including the Brisbane Lions, Queensland Reds, Broncos, Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm, before signing with the Cowboys.
He is due to come off contract next year and is expected to be a hot commodity on the open market with clubs allowed to make approaches from November 1.