Kiwi league officials have this weekend launched a last-ditch attempt to secure star Bulldogs prop Sam Kasiano.
The 21-year-old Auckland-born forward - named last week as the NRL's front-rower of the year - is caught between the New Zealand Rugby League and Queensland officials who want to select him for State of Origin.
Kasiano refuses to discuss the subject publicly, but the NZRL has said his mother, Kalala, told them she would love to see her son in the black jersey.
NZRL football manager Tony Kemp said on Friday that Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney hoped to meet the prop in Sydney this weekend in a bid to secure his services for next month's trans-Tasman test in Townsville.
"We have got Stephen catching up with him again this weekend over in Sydney," Kemp told the Sunday Star-Times.
"We have been in touch with Sam. He is the NRL front-rower of the year . . . he is right up there for reckoning for the end of year test. He has signed a letter of intent to play for New Zealand. If his form warrants it, we will be picking him for New Zealand."
It's understood Kalala recently relocated to Sydney to be closer to her son, who moved to Australia aged 16.
She could not be contacted for comment, but Kemp said he was in contact with her, and she had indicated her preference was New Zealand.
Kasiano's manager, Damien McGregor-Lowndes, would not comment. But a source close to the star front-rower said it was unlikely the player would meet Kiwis management this weekend.
This did not mean he was rejecting the Kiwis - instead, he wanted to get the NRL finals out of the way before indicating a preference.
As Kasiano prepares to make his decision, Bulldogs team-mate and senior Kiwi Greg Eastwood has made an impassioned plea for the hulking prop to stick with his birth nation.
“Me and Frankie [Pritchard] are working on him," Eastwood said.
"He'll be something special. Me and Frankie took him on board as a project when he joined the club. He's really come along really fast, he's developing his game real good. He's a big boy so he's got all the attributes to be a great player.
“We're trying to get him but at the end of the day it's his choice and whatever he decides we'll be happy."
When asked if he was confident Kasiano would wear the colours of his birth country, Kemp said: "If he is not wearing black he definitely won't be wearing maroon [Queensland colours]."
Meanwhile, Kiwi league bosses are also fighting to secure the services of Raiders forward Josh Papalii.
Papalii, who played in the Raiders' play-off clash with the Rabbitohs last night, is seen as a potential bolter for the Townsville match, but has been courted by Queensland in recent months.
The NZRL has enlisted former Kiwis hardman Ruben Wiki to help Papalii fend off Queensland approaches.
The former Junior Kiwi told media earlier this year that he was "Kiwi 100 per cent."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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