Rugby league: Michael Maguire gives Dallin Watene-Zelezniak his blessing as Tonga defection confirmed

As first revealed by Newshub, NZ Kiwis have confirmed former skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is defecting to Tonga, with their blessing.  

Watene Zeleniak's elevation to Kiwis captain in 2018 was only made possible by head coach Michael Maguire, the same man who's now backed his decision to switch allegiance.  

"He'd like to represent the heritage of his family, and I fully appreciate that," Maguire said.  

Watene Zelenniak has not been included in Tonga's squad for their tour of the UK as he needs minor surgery.  

But when he's fit, he'll now wear the famous red, and Maguire's not bitter.  

"I think he's probably realising, at his age, he doesn't have too much time left at that highest level," he added.  

On Wednesday, Maguire named his Kiwi squad without some big names.   

The likes of NZ Warriors Shaun Johnson, Te Maire Martin, Marata Niukore and Christchurch-born Brisbane Broncos star Jordan Riki are all among those missing.

"We had a few players, that due to the long season, aren't available due to injuries and surgeries."  

But it's a contrasting situation for the Kiwi Ferns, boosted by the inclusion of Olympic gold medallist Tyla Nathan-Wong.  

The former sevens star is now poised to become a dual international, recieving the call-up after her first NRLW season with the Dragons.  

"The skill set that she's got is real freakish," said Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry. "As her first season's got on, she's gotten really good, actually way better than when she first started."   

Nathan-Wong only getting better and better will be music to the ears of Kiwi Ferns fans who hope she'll light up the sport as she so often did all over the Sevens world.