Kalyn Ponga received the ultimate accolade when his fellow NRL players voted the 20-year-old as the best player of the 2018 season.

But the Knights fullback, who can shred defences with ridiculous ease, has already talked about switching codes and pursuing an All Black jersey and Steve Hansen has responded by leaving the door ajar.

Ponga's current club league contract, worth a moderate $650,000 a year plus bonuses, finishes at the end of 2021. So while the timing wouldn't be perfect for the 2023 World Cup, it still isn't bad and Ponga has plenty of time on his side.

Ponga, whose father is Kiwi, was born in West Australia but spent a lot of his childhood in Palmerston North.


He is so good that even in this era of super talented footballers, Ponga would stand out and make the All Blacks a lot scarier than they already are.

As Ponga showed in his State of Origin debut for Queensland this year, he can play just about anywhere. Where would he fit in with the All Blacks?

1) First five-eighth

The Beauden Barrett-led revolution has shown that match generalship is not the be-all and end-all for the All Black No 10 anymore.

Successive World Cup victories got the monkey off New Zealand's back, and they are releasing the hounds in the post-Dan Carter era. Sublime skills and all-out attack are wiping opponents out.

Ponga is perfect for this new era and could be a sensational No 10, once he has settled into rugby.

To my mind, this is the position where Ponga would turn rugby on its head.

The problem is, Ponga would only have just two seasons to learn the ins and outs of top-level rugby before the 2023 World Cup.


Barrett, Richie Mo'unga and Damian McKenzie could all still be in the frame, although Barrett will consider massive overseas offers after the tournament in Japan next year.

On the plus side, Ponga is a budding goalkicker and landed 27 goals for the Knights in 2018 at a 69 per cent success rate.

2) Fullback

The position he plays for the Knights, and where most people will see Ponga fitting into rugby.

With his speed, stunning footwork and ability to glide through holes, he would be a devastating runner in the No 15 jersey.

That he beat fellow star fullbacks Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Valentine Holmes for the RLPA award says it all.

Ben Smith's amazing All Black career is near an end, and Jordie Barrett is much more of a midfielder, his preferred position. Fullback is wide open, and Ponga is just the man.

But he'd better hurry. There's a young bloke named Will Jordan in the Crusaders system who insiders say is the Next Big Thing. Tasman Mako Jordan even looks a bit like Ponga, from the way he plays to the headgear.

And if Jordan isn't the NBT, talent springs from everywhere in New Zealand rugby.

Tasman Mako sensation Will Jordan - another Kalyn Ponga?
Tasman Mako sensation Will Jordan - another Kalyn Ponga?

3) Midfield

The All Blacks are fairly well catered for in the centres, leading up to next year's World Cup.

But injury-hit flip-flopper Sonny Bill Williams won't be around for the 2023 World Cup, and the 29-year-old concussion-wracked Ryan Crotty is also in the twilight zone.

Jack Goodhue has the No 13 jersey nailed down but while Anton Lienert-Brown and Ngani Laumape are on the rise, Ponga's potential could not be ignored.

4) Bench specialist

This is where Ponga could really shine if he wanted to.

The Newcastle flyer would be an absolute nightmare to deal with late in games when defenders tire, concentration wanes and formations are skewed by replacements.

Ponga would want to be a starter, but all in good time. This would be the perfect learning place.

Imagine an All Black team with McKenzie and Ponga lurking on the bench. Scary.