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Ponga set for new Maori league challenges

Newcastle NRL star Kalyn Ponga says he's on a steep learning curve in the Maori All-Stars side, learning the Haka as well as a new position.

Ponga set for new Maori league challenges

Newcastle NRL star Kalyn Ponga says he's on a steep learning curve in the Maori All-Stars side, learning the Haka as well as a new position.

KALYN PONGA of the Cowboys is tackled by Jake Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles during the NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Manly Sea Eagles at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville, Australia.
KALYN PONGA of the Cowboys is tackled by Jake Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles during the NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Manly Sea Eagles at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville, Australia. Picture:Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

From learning the Haka to playing five-eighth, Kalyn Ponga admits he's feeling like a rookie.

The 20-year-old is breaking new ground as part of the New Zealand Maori rugby league team to face the Indigenous All-Stars on Friday night in Melbourne.


He's set to start at five-eighth on the big stage for the first time in his senior career.

But Ponga is more worried about the Maori war dance.

"I've been learning (the Haka) over the last couple of days - I haven't done a Haka for about eight years so I still haven't got it down pat but I will get it done by Friday," Ponga said.

"For me, it's all new but I'm excited to get out there and do it."

After spending his breakout season last year at fullback, Ponga said he was ready to take on the playmaking duties - although he joked he hoped his back-rowers would be making a few tackles for him.

"I've been training there the whole pre-season so I'm glad I can play in six on Friday night just to get an experience in that position," he said.

"Obviously, it will be a bit of trial and error but I will just put my best foot forward."

While he's pledged his allegiance to Queensland and Australian rugby league, the All-Stars concept has allowed the Newcastle star to represent his heritage and his Maori father Andre.

Ponga said he'd lived in Australia most of his life so this was a great opportunity to be exposed to his culture.

"It means a lot to him (father) so to make him proud is pretty good," he said.

"I was very excited I was allowed to represent my culture."

Ponga is expecting the Indigenous team, who boast speedsters Josh Addo-Carr and James Roberts, to prove a handful on the flanks in the AAMI Park match.

But the Maori have a plan to overcome that.

"They've got plenty of speed out wide but we've got some big boys in the middle so, hopefully, we will go through there," he said.

Ponga is partnering another raw half in Melbourne's Jahrome Hughes and says they plan to go "freestyle".

"We are keeping our structures pretty simple but, hopefully, he can just do some freaky stuff and score some tries for us."

AAP


AAP




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