Ponga’s All Blacks loophole in $4.5m offer
Young NRL sensation Kalyn Ponga is 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 reports.
Fox Sports and The Sydney Morning Herald have reported the 21-year-old will sign a four-year deal with the Newcastle Knights, worth a staggering $4.5m.
However according to the report, 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.
Born in Western Australia, Ponga spent five years in New Zealand from the age of eight years old until 13 and has Maori heritage through his Kiwi parents.
He turned down the Kiwis in 2018 to align with Queensland, but could yet represent New Zealand one day. He has already represented Australia, selected to play for the green and gold at last year's Rugby League World Cup 9s in Sydney.
"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, who has played 40 games for the club since his 2018 debut following a move from the Cowboys.
"We've offered him an upgraded contract for 2020-21 on the basis of an extension. The family know how much we want to keep him at Newcastle and they will come back to us with their view," Knights chief executive Philip Gardner told the SMH.
"I'd be really surprised if the All Blacks weren't talking to him now, that's the kind of talent we are talking about here," Gardner said.
"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."