Young NRL star Kalyn Ponga is reportedly set to put his dream of playing for the All Blacks on-hold due to a new, lucrative long-term deal he’ll sign with the Newcastle Knights.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports the 22-year-old is likely to sign a four- or five-year deal with the Newcastle Knights, worth $1.1 million a year – a contract that would make him one of the top five highest-paid in the game.
It comes after reports had surfaced previously that Ponga was looking to include an option in any new deal that would allow him to try swapping codes in the near future in an attempt to crack the All Blacks for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
However, that dream has reportedly been shelved, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that Ponga's desire to win an NRL premiership with the Knights outweighing his ambition to play for the All Blacks.
Despite being born in Western Australia, Ponga has strong connections to New Zealand, having spent five years here from when he was eight years old and also embracing his Māori heritage through his Kiwi parents.
He famously turned down the Kiwis in 2018 to follow another dream of representing Queensland in the State of Origin – a goal he completed later that year – but he told 1 NEWS at the time he could yet represent New Zealand one day.
"Obviously, that [playing for the All Blacks] would be a huge goal [that] if I was to come back to union I'd want to tick," Ponga told 1 NEWS 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. t's the pinnacle."
Ponga has played 42 games for the club since his 2018 debut following a move from the Cowboys.
The NRL season re-starts on Thursday, following the break for Covid-19, with the Broncos facing the Eels.