Curtis Rona is about to embark on the next stage of his career with a contract in rugby union, but first he wants to fulfil a lifelong goal of representing his culture on the league field.
After three seasons spent with the North Queensland Cowboys and Canterbury Bulldogs, Rona has linked up with Super Rugby’s Western Force for 2017.
But before that the 24-year-old utility back, who finished last year as the NRL’s second-highest try-scorer, will take the field for New Zealand Maori against the New Zealand Residents this Saturday at Davies Park in Huntly.
“It is something I have always thought about and it is a massive honour, I am privileged to be part of something recognising my culture and my heritage,” Rona told kiwileaguecentral.com.
“To represent the Maori people is going to be a great feeling for myself, and one of the real highlights of my rugby league career.
“I was raised in Australia from a young age but I have always kept my roots real close to me, and it means a lot to me to come back and represent the Maori people.
“I am just looking forward to getting back to that.”
Raised in Perth from the age of eight, Rona has always made an effort to remain close to his Maori heritage.
A descendant of Te Atiawa from Taranaki, Rona has Maori links through both of his parents and said he was looking forward to a big family turnout come Saturday.
“It’s going to be a good opportunity for me to catch up with whanau and hopefully they get some whitebait ready for me after the game!
“I have thought about this game for a long time and it’s going to be perfect for me to finish my league career wearing the Maori jersey.”
New Zealand Maori v New Zealand Residents
Saturday, October 15 at Davies Park, Huntly
(Main photo: Curtis Rona. Credit: photosport.nz).