His dream may be to play for the All Blacks but NRL star Kalyn Ponga isn't switching to rugby union any time soon.
Queensland young gun Ponga has moved to clarify comments that his goal is to become a member of the all-conquering New Zealand rugby team, saying they were taken out of context.
Alarm bells were sounding for the NRL after Ponga told New Zealand's TVNZ last year that donning the All Blacks jersey would be the "pinnacle" and did not rule out a switch.
The Newcastle Knights star's comments even caught the attention of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen who confirmed Ponga - born in Western Australia to Maori parents - was on his radar.
But the 20-year-old Ponga - off contract in 2021 - insists he will remain loyal to rugby league after a breakout NRL season in which he narrowly missed claiming the Dally M Medal.
"The question I was asked that day (by TVNZ) was, that if I was to play rugby, would I want to play for the All Blacks, and I just answered the question by saying 'yes, who wouldn't?'" Ponga told Former Origin Greats website.
"But if you watched the whole interview, it was about my family and our New Zealand heritage, so it was taken out of context a little bit.
"The reality is I'm very happy in rugby league."
Ponga was born in Port Hedland but spent part of his childhood in New Zealand playing rugby, fuelling fears the young gun could return to the code after his All Black comments.
Ponga said athletes should never rule anything out about their future, citing ex-Maroons teammate Valentine Holmes' shock NFL move.
But Ponga insisted he still had plenty to prove in rugby league after making a stellar State of Origin debut for Queensland in 2018.
"As an athlete, you never rule anything out, look at Val. But personally, I'm very grateful for what the Knights have done for me and it was a dream to play State of Origin last season," he said.
"There's more I want to achieve in rugby league."
Ponga said he savoured his taste of Origin and craved more, putting his hand up to replace retired Maroons No.1 Billy Slater despite switching from fullback to five-eighth for Newcastle this year.
"The fullback spot would be great this year, especially with Billy Slater retiring, but honestly I will play anywhere. I just want to wear that Maroon jumper again," he said.
On donning Newcastle's No.6 jersey, Ponga said: "You don't really know if you can do something until you do it.
"I didn't think I could handle playing the minutes I did in Origin and I managed to do it, so hopefully I can surprise myself again."
Australian Associated Press