Ponga enters Maroons Origin consideration
Posted on 04/25/20 7:45 PM
Origin talk has surfaced with Kalyn Ponga in his first full season as an NRL first-grader.Boom fullback Kalyn Ponga says he is ready for the cauldron of State of Origin football with the Newcastle fullback increasingly being spoken about as a Queensland debutant this year.
The 20-year-old starred in the Knights’ 15-10 NRL win over Brisbane on Saturday, with Mitchell Pearce describing his teammate as the most gifted young footballer he’s ever seen.
Pearce knows all too well the pressures that come with being a prodigy but it’s not Ponga’s fancy footwork and playmaking brilliance earning him plaudits.
It’s his willingness to put his head in places most wouldn’t put their feet and his try-saving cover defence.
After Saturday’s victory at McDonald Jones Stadium, Ponga required stitches to a deep wound in his head he received after trying to stop Anthony Milford from scoring.
Pearce, who debuted for the Sydney Roosters as a 17-year-old and for NSW a year later, praised the way his teammate had soaked up the pressure.
“He’s as good as any young player I’ve ever seen, it’s a big wrap but I don’t think anyone would disagree with that,” Knights skipper Pearce said.
“He just wants to do the dirty stuff for the team.
“We talk about all the pretty stuff he’s doing with his footwork but the best thing I like about him is the effort he puts into his defence and the cover tackles.
“For 20, I haven’t seen too many fullbacks play that tough.”
It is only a matter of time before Ponga makes his Origin debut but just 14 games into his first-grade career, some would consider it too early. The confident No.1 is not one of them.
“It’d be the opportunity of a lifetime,” Ponga told AAP.
“I’d be shocked, at first, like anyone else but I’d take that opportunity with both hands.”
With Maroons veterans Greg Inglis and Darius Boyd yet to reach their peak this year, and coach Kevin Walter’s willingness to make tough calls, Ponga may not be made to wait for long.
“I’m certainly not going to talk him down,” Knights coach Nathan Brown said when asked about Ponga’s Origin chances.
“One thing Queensland have done, (former Queensland coach) Mal (Meninga) and Kevvie, they’ve introduced their players at the right times.
“If they feel he’s going to be right at some stage, I’m sure they’ll pick him.”