'I didn't find it tough' - NRL prodigy Kalyn Ponga on choosing Queensland over NZ

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In the end, NRL prodigy Kalyn Ponga reckons the decision to turn his back on his father's homeland New Zealand and pledge his allegiance to Queensland was not difficult.

Ryley Jacks of the Storm tackles Kalyn Ponga of the Cowboys in the Downer NRL Auckland Rugby League Nines match, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, February 05, 2017. Copyright photo: David Rowland / www.photosport.nz

Ryley Jacks of the Storm tackles Kalyn Ponga of the Cowboys in the Downer NRL Auckland Rugby League Nines.

Source: Photosport

Ponga admitted he had to seek his family's acceptance before making the call but claimed he was never under any pressure from home to don the Kiwis jersey.

The 19-year-old had no complaints about his decision after being included in an 11-strong Emerging Maroons squad training on the Gold Coast this weekend, Queensland's stepping stone to State of Origin.

But not so long ago it seemed Ponga was torn over his representative future.

Ponga avoided making a representative call altogether in 2016 when he opted not to play rep footy after being eligible for both the Junior Kiwis and Junior Kangaroos.

And in October, Ponga was picked for the Maori side to take on New Zealand Residents in Auckland, only to be reduced to water boy duties because of a shoulder complaint.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 22:  Kalyn Ponga of the Cowboys is tackled by Brock Lamb of the Knights during the round eight NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Newcastle Knights at 1300SMILES Stadium on April 22, 2017 in Townsville, Australia.  (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Kalyn Ponga in action for the Cowboys against the Newcastle Knights in Townsville.

Source: Getty

But Ponga said it was not difficult breaking the news about his rep footy future to his New Zealand-born dad Andre.

"I didn't find it tough but I had to get their (family's) acceptance," said Ponga, who was born in Western Australia but spent five years in NZ from the age of eight.

"I was born here, went to school here. To be honest it wasn't that tough pledging my allegiance to Queensland and Australia.

I wouldn't say I am on the verge of Origin selection - there is still a lot of hard work ahead,"
Knights young star Kalyn Ponga

"People put pressure on me to make a decision when I had no reason to (in the past).

"(But) it was an exciting moment for me to tell (Queensland coach) Kevvie (Walters), knowing I had the support from my family."

Ponga has been earmarked for greatness since 2016, when he became just the sixth player to make his NRL debut in the finals when plucked from obscurity as a 17-year-old by North Queensland coach Paul Green.

And he had played just two NRL games for the Cowboys when he signed a four-year, $3 million-plus Newcastle deal from 2018.

Ponga now has a golden chance to earn an Origin debut after Emerging Maroons honours.

Eight players last year alone graduated from Emerging Maroons to make their Queensland debut.

But Ponga wasn't getting ahead of himself.

"I wouldn't say I am on the verge of Origin selection - there is still a lot of hard work ahead," said Ponga, who has played a total of nine NRL games.

Ponga raised eyebrows when he signed with Newcastle.

But the teenager had no regrets despite the perceived pressure to justify his price tag at a new-look Knights now boasting the likes of NSW No.7 Mitchell Pearce.

Asked if he felt expectation as Newcastle's $3 million man, Ponga laughed: "No. I think Pearcey has got that (pressure) now.

"There would have been people saying bad things if I stayed or left, it's just the way it is."

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