Ponga zooms into Queensland Origin contention
Kalyn Ponga has been earmarked as a future State of Origin player for the past few years but the future could arrive sooner than expected given his outstanding form for Newcastle.
The 20-year old has been one of the form fullbacks in 2018, and once again showed his silky skills from the back in the 15-10 Telstra Premiership win over the Brisbane Broncos on Saturday night.
Ponga notched more than 20 runs for 176 metres in attack with a try assist, and earned further respect from his peers and the coach.
NSW Origin halfback Mitchell Pearce cannot speak highly enough of his Knights teammate.
"He is as good as any young player you will ever see coming through, and it’s just there for everyone to see," Pearce said.
"It’s a big wrap but I don’t think anyone would disagree that he is humble and listens and works hard and he just wants to do all the dirty stuff for the team.
"I haven’t seen too many players play that tough at fullback."
It was only Ponga’s 14th game in the NRL but despite only coming out of his teenage years in the last fortnight, he is being tipped to earn a Queensland jersey in the near future.
Knights coach Nathan Brown did not want to say the Maroons should select Ponga this year but was confident they would blood him at Holden State of Origin level when the time was right.
"One thing Queensland has done is they have introduced their young players at the right time," Brown said.
"Queensland have transitioned their players so well, so if they feel he’s going good enough or if they think he needs another 12 months, that’s fine.
"But I am certainly very grateful that he’s selected our club to come and play for."
Pearce could see Ponga being a tough player for the Blues to handle.
"I’m sure when he goes in there it’ll be more heartache for NSW again," Pearce said.
The former Cowboys ace is also catching the eye of rival teams, with Wayne Bennett noting his talent, while his opposite number, Darius Boyd, believes he is only going to get better with experience.
"He's definitely a special talent at that age and playing fullback is a key position and he hasn't played that many games," Boyd said.
"But you can see he has a lot of confidence and confidence is a wonderful thing. And credit to him, I hope he keeps going well."
Meanwhile, Knights forward Mitchell Barnett will be suspended for Friday's trip to Melbourne unless he can prove his innocence after being charged with a grade-one dangerous throw for a tackle on Tevita Pangai jnr in the 11th minute of Saturday night's win over the Broncos.