League convert on Wallaby radar

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 13:46
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REACTION: New Western Force recruit Curtis Rona is already in the sights of Wallaby coach Michael Cheika.

The Canterbury Bulldogs star, Rona, signed for Western Force on a two-year deal.

And it sparked an immediate reaction from the Australia coach, who feels the latest Rugby League convert can become as prolific in Rugby Union as he was in the 13-man code.

Rona, 24, returns to Perth, where he grew up, for the 2017 season and despite being New Zealand-born would be eligible for the Australian Test side.

Cheika said Rona could be a Wallaby, though he won't be rushing him into a year-end tour squad.

Cheika also said Rona would certainly come into calculations once he started playing Super Rugby.

"You meet him and he's very hungry to do well in this sport," Cheika told Rugby.com.au.

"I think that's what we've always said about players - he played rugby before he went to the league.

"I've always said about players who come from Rugby League to play here it's got to be because they want to play the game."

Rona would be a handy addition to the Wallabies outside back ranks, with Joe Tomane set to head to France at the end of the year.

With Sefa Naivalu to become Test eligible in time for the November tour and with the Rebels' recent acquisition of National Rugby League star Marika Koroibete, Rona would add to a host of exciting wings in Wallabies contention.

"He's certainly a guy that wants to play the game, he's really keen to come back, he's really keen to be a part of what's happening in Perth going forward and he's had a great season so far this year," Cheika said.

"I'm really looking forward to him being involved in Super Rugby next year and we'll see how it goes from there."

Rona played for New Zealand's junior Rugby League team in 2012 and last year was selected in the New Zealand League squad that toured Great Britain.

The 24-year-old try-scoring machine made his NRL debut in 2014 and in three seasons has gone on to become one of the most prolific try scorers in the competition.

Blessed with spectacular speed, power and finishing ability Rona was the second highest try scorer in the competition last season and has scored a staggering 39-tries in 53 appearances.

Born in New Zealand, raised in Perth, Rona played for Wanneroo Districts Club and was a member of the Western Force Academy before making the switch to Rugby League in 2009.

Standing at 194cm and weighing in at 102kg Rona has played the majority of his career on the wing, but has also been used in the centres for the Bulldogs this season.

The Force's interim coach Dave Wessels said the franchise is ecstatic to have signed Rona and excited about what he can bring to the team.

"The signing of Curtis is good for us on a number of levels," he said.

"Obviously being a local boy him coming home means a lot as we look to keep growing rugby in the state and the second thing is that he's a weapon.

"He has been incredibly successful in the NRL as one of the leading try scorers in the competition and is a really exciting player. At 24 he is still very young so we feel he fits nicely in our plans for our backline.

"At this stage with his size and speed and what he has done on the wing in the NRL we are looking at him as an outside back."

Sources: Western Force & Rugby.com.au