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A heart-to-heart with his father 12 months ago convinced Ken Maumalo to pledge his representative allegiance to New Zealand but the Warriors winger has not closed the door on a return to the Samoan ranks.

Maumalo is considered a certainty to be named on the wing in Michael Maguire’s Kiwis team to face Tonga on Saturday night at Mount Smart Stadium.

It will be almost a year to the day since his Test debut for New Zealand in Denver.

Born in Auckland to the son of Samoan immigrants, Maumalo represented the nation of his cultural heritage four times prior to his selection for the Kiwis and said the opportunity to play more often at the highest level was the driving force in his decision.

As Tonga goes from strength to strength to challenge the Tier One nations on a more regular basis, Samoa and other Pacific nations have not yet progressed to that level, leaving Maumalo with a difficult decision.

"For me it was tough at the start,” Maumalo told of his representative switch.

“Obviously I wanted to play for Samoa but then my old man was the one who said that if I have to pick to play for the Kiwis, to make them a higher priority.

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“He said to make sure I play for them first before I go back and play for Samoa.

"Obviously Tonga has done a really good job with all those players going back and they're playing against the Tier One nations more often.

"Samoa is not yet getting those opportunities which is why I've put my hand up to play for the Kiwis.

"For me I'm just trying to put my best foot forward for the Kiwis and hopefully later on down the track I'll get to play for Samoa again.”

Turning 25 in July, Maumalo has quickly become one of the most influential wingers in the NRL.

Two spectacular tries against the Titans last Friday took his season tally to 10 and he ranks first in both total metres (2,381) and post-contact metres (788).

While his Warriors teammate David Fusitu’a topped the try-scoring tally with 23 last season, Maumalo crossed the stripe just five times, yet it is his willingness to work hard and improve that impresses club coach Stephen Kearney.

"Kenny had a wonderful year last year and what I've been really impressed by is that he wants to get better and he wants to improve,” Kearney said.

"David missed a few games a month or so ago and Ken picked up the slack and I thought he was wonderful [against the Titans].

"It's not only his stuff out of the back-field, he finishes off pretty well. He's a pretty good asset.”

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While his acrobatic tries feature regularly on the highlight heels – and, according to Maumalo, are completely unrehearsed – it is the areas of the game that happen at the periphery of the TV screen that Maumalo is most focused on.

“Everyone knows how to tackle hard and run hard but it's the stuff off the ball that you don't see on camera,” Maumalo said of the areas in his game he was trying to improve.

“That's a lot of talk, tying in through the middle, all those little things. You might not see it on TV but they're areas that I take personally as a player.

"We all know we can run hard and tackle hard but it's the little things in the game that make you a better player.”

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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