Cowboy Kalyn Ponga at the centre of NRL club bidding war
RUGBY LEAGUE: Mackay-raised teenager Kalyn Ponga is set to become one of the highest paid players in the NRL despite having only played two games of first grade.
After already having his current contract bumped up to almost $1 milion earlier this year, the North Queensland Cowboys are desperately trying to extend their deal with the 18-year-old in the face of massive interest in the wonder kid from rival clubs.
Ponga is signed with the Cowboys until the end of 2017 but wants to sort his future beyond that before the start of next season.
With four other clubs willing to offer three to four-year commitments to Ponga, Fox Sports has reported the talented fullback can expect to attract offers in excess of $2 million.
While he only has two top grade games to his name, Ponga is regarded by the game's best recruiters as a future international and the hottest youngster on the market.
He was the subject of a tug of war between Australia and New Zealand league earlier this year when Queensland State of Origin coach Kevin Walters approached him to declare his allegiance to the northern state.
Ponga was born in Perth but his father is Maori and the family moved to Palmerston North when he was a child. He showed himself to be a multi-talented young sportsman including winning the New Zealand under 13 national golf title in 2010.
Shortly after that Ponga's family relocated to Mackay where his star continued to rise, making the Australian under-15 rugby league team in 2012.
Despite that, Ponga had been on the New Zealand Rugby League's radar well ahead of that. In October last year, he was invited to train with the Kiwis ahead of their tour to Great Britain. He was then named to play for the Junior Kiwis against the Junior Kangaroos earlier this year but declined the offer while he mulled over which country to declare for.
Walters ultimately won the battle for Ponga who declared a couple of months ago that he was pledging his future allegiance to Queensland and Australia, leading to claims the Aussies had poached yet another New Zealand prospect in similar vein to James 'Aussie Jim' Tamou.
Ponga's rise is even more remarkable given he missed five months of last season fighting off a life-threatening brain infection.
Fox Sports contacted Ponga's manager Wayde Rushton who declined to confirm on which clubs were after Ponga.
"We're in dialogue with a number of clubs but won't be playing this out in the media," Rushton said.
- NZ Herald