Curtis Rona's Kiwi Conundrum
Bulldogs winger Curtis Rona is something of a nomadic anomaly when it comes to representative eligibility, but it's not his transience that is currently posing problems for his immediate representative future.
New Zealand-born, Perth-raised Rona has since moved to Sydney, then Townsville, then back to Sydney.
He qualifies as Australian or Kiwi but cannot play Origin under the eligibility criteria.
He hopes to one day wear the colours of his native New Zealand and with both incumbent New Zealand wingers Manu Vatuvei and Jason Nightingale out indefinitely with injury, and incumbent centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall also not playing football at the moment, coach Steve Kearney potentially may be inclined to look at the 23-year-old former Junior Kiwi.
But there's a catch: Rona and his partner are expecting their first child to arrive in November, smack-bang in the middle of New Zealand's end of season three Test tour to the Old Dart.
"There's no Origin for me unless they change the rules, but playing for New Zealand would be my first choice, to represent my country would be a massive achievement," Rona said of the representative vagaries surrounding him.
"I played Junior Kiwis in 2012 against the Junior Kangaroos and that experience was a memory for me, to represent my country, it was a special day... Deep down in my roots New Zealand would be my first preference, and representing my family and culture from New Zealand.
"There's a tour at the end of the year and I've got hopes of making that squad and to play would be unbelievable."
Rona knows it will be tough to even get selected. The likes of Peta Hiku, Sosaia Feki, Bryson Goodwin, Gerard Beale, Tui Lolohea, Jordan Kahu and Rona's clubmate Sam Perrett may each come into the conversation.
But if he does get selected, Rona knows he and his partner will have to enter a tough conversation.
"We're expecting in early November; the tour goes for a month and the baby's due right in the middle," he said.
"It's going to be a tough decision for me and my partner if I do make the squad if I stay or go. We've got procedures there if I go or if I get picked, but ether way it's a win-win situation for me, I'll be pretty happy [even if I don't get picked] with the first bub to come.
"She's real supportive of my career, but this is our first so it's going to be a tough decision for us to make."
Rona confirmed he had spoken to Kearney about his Test ambitions.
"I've had a small talk with [Kearney], I've really just got to play my game and be consistent, they want consistent players. Hopefully I get chosen in the squad," he said.
Rona knows that his 19 tries – equal top this year with Parramatta's Semi Radradra after 23 rounds – is the type of consistency that will attract attention, and said he gets some friendly ribbing from teammates about his try-scoring race with the Fijian flyer.
"It's been a good year for myself. Being top try scorer after 23 rounds, I'd never have thought 12 months ago I'd be in this position," he said.
"Hopefully I can bag a couple this weekend [against Souths]. All my teammates keep hitting me up about it, when Semi scores a few tries and I was in that drought for a few games and he scored a few doubles. It's going to be a good run coming in to the end of the season, it's going to be a real battle."
The Bulldogs were already in camp in Gosford preparing to face the Titans when Radradra scored his 19th try of the season, against the Roosters last Saturday.
"We were up on the Central Coast and all had a camp together, playing cards, we turned on the TV and he scored a try and I thought 'wow, somebody stop him!' Rona laughed.
"The boys were giving it to me and said you've got to score a few tries [against Titans]."
Rona in fact did score two against the Titans, squaring the ledger with Radradra on 19 tries, and will be out to stretch that tally on Friday night at ANZ Stadium when his side will be out for revenge against a Rabbitohs outfit that edged them in a controversial Good Friday clash earlier in the year.
This article first appeared on NRL.com