Hurrell turns down Kiwis in favour of Tonga
Warriors centre opts for birthplaceDAVID LONG
New Zealand's plans to defend the Rugby League World Cup have suffered a setback with star centre Konrad Hurrell snubbing the Kiwis in order to play for Tonga.
Hurrell has been a sensation in the NRL in recent weeks, scoring match-winning tries for the Warriors against the Sea Eagles and Broncos and he's gone from being an inconsistant player to one of the club's main strike weapons.
Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney told Sunday News last week that Hurrell is a player who's caught his attention, along with a couple of the other Warriors stars.
''The performance of Konrad over the last three weeks has been a real stand out,'' Kearney said.''The form reversal [of the Warriors] has been on the back of great performances from the team, but Elijah [Taylor] and Simon [Mannering] are also the ones who've really built that foundation.
''With their performances at the moment it's not a Shaun Johnson try that's winning it for them.
''Shaun's playing measured football at the moment without being brilliant and I think that's a really good sign for Shaun, the Warriors and the Kiwis. That he doesn't need to be the one who's got his name up in lights all of the time.''
When pressed on whether Hurrell would be keen on playing for the Kiwis, or the country of his birth, Tonga, Kearney said: ''It will be Konrad's decision, but I am pretty confident I know which one he'd want to play for.''
However, when asked if he was keen to play for the Kiwis, the star centre - who takes on the Rabbitohs in Perth today - said he would instead turn out for his country of birth.
''I have made up my mind that I'm going to go for Tonga this year. It is just something that I want to do,'' Hurrell told Sunday News.''I want to go to the world cup and play, I don't want to go there just to be the 18th man or just be in the squad.
''This is going to be my first world cup and I want to represent my country and the Tongan community in it. After that, if I play hard I will hopefully get a chance to play for the Kiwis.
''It was just my choice. I called my family and told them I wanted to play for Tonga and they said they'd support me in whatever I wanted to do, they just want me to make a team at the world cup.
''I watched that game between Tonga and Samoa [in April] and it was an exciting match, but at the same time I felt like I wanted to be on the field with the boys.''
Hurrell's view that he might have struggled to get much game time with the Kiwis at the world cup could be misplaced.
While earlier in the year he was an outsider for the Kiwis' World Cup squad, the 21-year-old, who moved to New Zealand on a rugby scholarship at Auckland Grammar School, has been one of the most improved NRL players this season. He has the X-factor close to the try line and is also making great strides on his defensive game.
Hurrell has already informed Tonga coach Charles Tonga that he'll play for the team at the tournament that starts in October, so there now seems little chance of him having a change of heart.
- © Fairfax NZ News