Willie Mason has downplayed speculation he could play for the Kiwis at next year's league World Cup, saying he is more likely to turn out for Tonga if he misses Australian selection.
Auckland-born Mason, who takes on former All Black Troy Flavell in the Fight for Life on Saturday, caused a stir earlier today when he suggested he would not say no to a call-up for the Kiwis.
The 32-year-old made his international debut for Tonga in 2000 and went on to play 24 times for the Kangaroos. He has not pulled on the green and gold jersey since 2008 and could, technically, play for the Kiwis next year, if selected.
A possible switch in allegiance was first touted at Knights preseason training.
"Timana Tahu, Jeremy Smith and I were mucking around at training. I think there's an eligibly rule that says if you haven't played for your country for three years you can play for someone else," Mason said in Auckland today.
"It's not a big deal. A few people were commenting saying I shouldn't play for New Zealand... it's disrespectful. It's a matter of opinion. It was just a few boys mucking around saying we are eligible for New Zealand if we want to be.
"How much would it piss people off?"
That unlikely and controversial scenario seems farcical not least given Mason's history with the Kiwis - he swore at the haka in 2006 and subsequently copped a black eye in a huge hit from David Kidwell as a direct response.
Outgoing New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Jim Doyle dead batted suggestions the Kiwis would be interested in the front-rower.
"As far as the NZRL is concerned, Willie is an Australian," Doyle said today. "He last played international rugby league for Australia and in our eyes he decided his allegiance a long time ago."
The much-maligned Mason also qualifies for Samoa and Tonga through his mother and admitted the latter was a more realistic prospect.
"I'm lucky I can play for four nations. Obviously I want to be in the Australian side. You can't play 20 odd games for Australia and turn your back and try and play for New Zealand, that's not the way I roll.
"It just wouldn't fit. It's unrealistic because of the history and I don't consider myself a Kiwi.
"But if I miss out on Australia I've got the Tongan side and I'd be more than happy to play for Tonga."
- © Fairfax NZ News