Rugby union is hunting NRL superstar Kalyn Ponga. Picture: Dave Hunt
Rugby union is hunting NRL superstar Kalyn Ponga. Picture: Dave Hunt

Meninga: NRL’s answer to cross-code poaching

 A PLAYER with the natural talents of Kalyn Ponga will always attract attention.

Attention from fans, from opposition teams and… from rival codes.

As coach of the Kangaroos it was interesting to hear Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has personally contacted Ponga to gauge his interest in playing rugby union.

While I was interested, I was not surprised.

There is always going to be a demand for players with Kalyn's ability and potential.

And I'm not too worried because I know we will return serve on rugby union.

There's some great rugby talent that might be interested in, or have the desire and ability to play rugby league as well.

We are always looking across codes and at opportunities to strengthen our squads and our game.

I have nothing against Michael Cheika doing what he did.

There is no law saying that you can't talk to people.

Meninga says a top 20 player list could help retain stars such as Kalyn Ponga. Picture: Glenn Hunt
Meninga says a top 20 player list could help retain stars such as Kalyn Ponga. Picture: Glenn Hunt

But the timing of it all and the sensitivity of it all is important.

The Wallabies coach wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't at least ask the question. But depending on when he spoke to Kalyn would be my only concern, for example, it would be unprofessional to do it in the lead up to an important match.

The Kalyn poaching raid also shines a light on what we are doing as a code to keep out best talent.

Kalyn is valuable to the game, kids love watching him play and have posters on their walls while adults are in awe of his skill.

There is already a marketing fund for our top players to help market the game.

But there has to be some kind of consideration for the introduction of a top 20 player list, which allows the NRL to give further financial incentive to marquee players in an attempt to retain them and grow the game.

That would help stop the luring and poaching of our players to other sports.

Rugby union is actually less of a threat to the NRL than sports like the NFL, which is starting to make its mark.

We now have kids growing up playing rugby league here in Australia who are dreaming of playing NFL in America, so there has to be extra funds to help keep our top talent.

Kalyn has already proven himself Origin level and he will come into calculations for Kangaroos selection at the end of the year.

Meninga backed James Tedesco as Australia’s incumbent fullback. Picture: Brett Costello
Meninga backed James Tedesco as Australia’s incumbent fullback. Picture: Brett Costello

But I have made it clear that James Tedesco is the incumbent fullback and he deserves the No.1 spot.

James had to wait in the wings for a while behind Billy Slater and Darius Boyd and was the Harry Sunderland medallist last year as our Australian international player of the year.

He also won our players player award at the end of our tour last year.

He deserves to be the incumbent but Kalyn is obviously a player of great interest and if he keeps developing and progressing the way he is, he is going to put the pressure on James.

Meninga backed the Blues’ inclusion of James Maloney Picture: Richard Wainwright
Meninga backed the Blues’ inclusion of James Maloney Picture: Richard Wainwright

MAROONS SHOULD BE WARY OF MALONEY INCLUSION

Much has been made about the amount of changes the Blues have made for Origin II.

I would be wary if I were the Maroons. They should not underestimate James Maloney coming back into the side.

The key area for any team is the spine and having continuity around that. With Panthers teammates Nathan Cleary and Maloney together in the halves, NSW will have a smoother combination.

And don't forget Cleary and Maloney teamed with Tedesco and Damien Cook to win the series last year.

In saying that, Origin is a 17-man game and everyone is accountable at that level. It is not one player who will make a difference.Your spine is important, but so is your bench.

The kicking game is important and taking your opportunities when they arrive is extremely important.

When you are playing with the very best players in the game, you have to make sure that you are playing your role.Your role has got to be your best. It is effort on effort on effort…there is no time to rest.

You need to not want to let your mates down.

News Corp Australia

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