The Kiwis have scored a rare off-field victory over arch-rivals Australia ahead of October's Four Nations, with rising Brisbane Broncos star Josh Hoffman set to commit to playing for New Zealand.
The 22-year-old fullback, who is related to league legend Wendell Sailor, was born in Mackay, Queensland, to New Zealand-born and Whangarei-raised father Shane and mother Grace of Torres Strait Island descent. Up until now, Hoffman's Kiwi heritage has been a secret.
But Sunday News can reveal his preference, despite being born in Australia, is to pull on the black jersey rather than the green and gold of Australia.
"I've absolutely given a lot of thought to possibly playing for New Zealand," Hoffman told Sunday News from Brisbane last night.
"When I was growing up, I'd sit down with dad and watch the All Blacks and the Kiwis play.
"They'd do the haka and I loved it.
"It used to pump me up so much and it was something I also wished to do – to play for New Zealand and pull on that black jersey.
"In saying that, Origin, as we all know, is one of the pinnacles in rugby league and that would be a good thing to do as well.
"But my passion, I think, is leaning towards playing for New Zealand."
New Zealand Rugby League was made aware of Hoffman's situation and football manager Tony Kemp believes he has a huge future in the national side.
"We were recently made aware Josh had New Zealand heritage and that he might have had a preference to play for the Kiwis," Kemp told Sunday News.
"It's now important we touch base with him about the future.
"Obviously, he is a very talented young guy and is playing in one of the key positions which we see him having a big future in.
"I think he's a brave young man for making a stand around his heritage. It's really important these kids see there's a pathway for them into the New Zealand jersey.
"Someone like Hoffman could potentially head into the next World Cup in 2013 as a mainstay in the Kiwis team.
"The kid can play. Anyone who watches the NRL would tell you that Josh Hoffman can play."
Ironically, Hoffman has replaced Auckland-born league star Karmichael Hunt, who controversially opted to play for Australia instead of his birth country, at fullback for the Broncos this year.
"I'm sort of the opposite of Karmichael, I guess," Hoffman said.
"I was born in Australia, am eligible to play for New Zealand and that's what I want to do."
Hoffman said he would officially make his decision when someone from the Kiwis made contact with him. But barring a last-minute change of heart, his future looks black rather than the maroon of Queensland.
"It would be a tough decision to make to turn my back on Queensland because this is the state I've grown up in and played all my footy in," he said. "But in saying that, it's in my blood and my genes to want to pull on the black jersey.
"We've got a few boys here at the Broncos in Alex Glenn and Antonio Winterstein and they are eligible for New Zealand too.
"I've become pretty tight with them and that's influenced my thinking a bit."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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