Young Māori star Kalyn Ponga reaping the rewards of turning down Kiwis with Queensland debut on the horizon

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Just five months after picking Australia over the Kiwis, Kalyn Ponga is about to get his chance on the biggest stage in rugby league.

Ponga had to convince his parents but he says they’ll have tears in their eyes at State of Origin II.
Source: 1 NEWS

That's why even though his Kiwi parents wanted him to represent their Māori heritage, they're now the proudest parents in Queensland.

Ponga admitted the feeling was rubbing off on him too.

"It’s probably the most proudest and biggest moment that I've been a part of.

"At the end of the game, I'll probably be lying in bed sort of going, 'that just happened' but until then I've got a job to do."

The former New Zealand junior golf champion will come off the bench in Origin II on Sunday, with Queensland selectors hoping it's his first step towards one day replacing a man he and so many other kids idolise – Billy Slater.

"To put that number one jersey on would be the dream but we've got the best fullback in camp and he's been the best fullback for the last 10 or so years."

"I still look up to him and he's going to show me how to play."

That's why for Ponga, the decision to choose Australia was easy.

Once he had convinced his Kiwi parents it was the right call, he made it official in January.

Dad Andre said his son has worked hard to make his dream come true.

"Obviously it'll be reality once he steps on the field on Sunday so we're a bit sceptical as a family," he said.

"It's going to be a long week for him, it'll probably be a long week for us but its huge - it's just massive!"

The 20-year-old said he knows how his parents will react on the night.

"My dad and mum will have tears in their eyes I think. I know that when I made my NRL debut and even under 20s they had tears in their eyes and they were very proud."

This week, Ponga revealed he overcame a life-threatening brain infection during high school so while the step up to State of Origin overwhelms most rookies, the young star is taking it all in his stride.

He might never wear a silver fern again but with a Queensland version of his custom made head gear being made, he'll represent his Māori heritage when he runs out at ANZ stadium.

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