KALYN Ponga has surged into the frame for the Origin series, with Queensland selection boss Gene Miles confirming the Newcastle young gun will be part of the Maroons’ set up this season.
Legendary Queensland fullback Gary Belcher has called for Ponga to chosen on the wing for Origin I, in much the same way Billy Slater was blooded on the flanks before moving to the fullback role where he has become a Maroons champion.
While Miles concedes Ponga is an outside chance for an Origin I debut, depending on injuries, the chairman of selectors says the 20-year-old sensation is set to enter Camp Maroon as 18th man to become familiar with Queensland’s systems.
“There is no doubt Kalyn is a star of the future and we see him as an Origin player,” Miles said.
“I think you will find if he is not in the team this year, he will be there as 18th man to give him a feel for how we do things.
“His form this year for Newcastle has been outstanding. It is exciting to think what he can do at the next level for Queensland.”
The former Cowboys under-20s whiz has been a revelation since joining the Knights, leading the NRL for most tackle busts with a staggering 73 in his opening 10 games.
Such is Ponga’s impact at Newcastle, he is in contention for the Dally M Medal and Maroons coach Kevin Walters has no doubt the quick-stepping fullback would be ready to debut this season if called upon by the Maroons.
“It’s hard to ignore what Kalyn is doing in Newcastle,” Walters said.
“I wouldn’t say Kalyn is 12 months away from an Origin debut. I’m watching him now.
“His name will be discussed. He was picked in our Emerging Origin squad earlier this year and he’s been in sensational touch for the Knights.
“With the injuries we’ve suffered (to Broncos duo Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire), we need our Origin players in form and Kalyn is in form.”
Walters worked with Ponga during the Emerging camp in January and gleaned an insight into the class, toughness and maturity that makes him tailor-made for an Origin baptism.
“Kalyn would handle Origin,” Walters said.
“He is very mature for a young guy. He really impressed me with his attitude, not just talking about football, but talking about his general life.
“I don’t believe he would be overawed by Origin.
“If given the opportunity, I reckon he would be capable of handling the step up.
“I don’t know where he might end up, but I’m watching him. I’m aware of what he can do.”
Belcher urged Queensland selectors to blood Ponga on the wing in Origin I with a view to him succeeding Slater at fullback.
“I remember Slater started his Origin career on the wing before going to fullback and I think they should do the same thing with Kalyn,” he said.
“He has set the comp alight. If you are picking the team solely on form, Ponga should be there.
“It would be a great move to give him a go.”