Former NRL player Malakai Watene-Zelezniak made his debut for Poland in their 40-8 win over international debutants North Macedonia in Sydney on Saturday.
Watene-Zelezniak, brother of New Zealand international Dallin, qualifies to represent Poland through his grandfather.
The 32-year-old retired from the NRL in 2021 after suffering acute kidney failure the previous year but has since made a comeback in the lower grades.
Watene-Zelezniak, who represented the Māori All Stars, made 31 appearances in the NRL for Wests Tigers and Penrith Panthers between 2017 and 2020.
Watene-Zelezniak was born in Australia and is of Māori, Tongan, Polish, Irish and English heritage. He proudly pulled on the Poland jersey for the first time on Saturday, scoring a try in their 40-8 win over North Macedonia, who made their debut in a men’s senior international test match.
Watene-Zelezniak represented his Tongan heritage at the World Cup 9s in 2019, playing three matches for Tonga.
And now he’s honoured his grandfather by pulling on Polish jersey – as well as sponsoring the match kit via his watch company W Zelezniak.
He posted on Instagram: “Huge honour to represent the birthplace of my grandpa Adam Zelezniak. Loved sharing the field with my Polska brothers.”
How North Macedonia and Poland lined up
North Macedonia: Elia Georgievski; Angelo Avramovski, Xanda Georgievski, Aledin Hrvat, Jayden Gouganovski; Mitchel Stojanoski, James Suleski; Jayden Foye, Jake Mitrevski, James Mirceski, Aleks Stojkovski, Jamie Miletic, Josh Kosteski. Subs: Aleks Srbinovski, Josh Boicheski, Sean Metelovski, Justin Miletec.
Tries: Foye, Gouganovski Goals: