Confident Kalyn ready to demand the ball for Maroons
State of Origin's freshest new talent Kalyn Ponga won't hesitate to demand the ball from teammates who were his heroes not that long ago.
A cool-headed Ponga fronted a big media scrum in the Maroons' Sanctuary Cove camp on Tuesday and announced he had been asked to by coach Kevin Walters to play with the same authority and desire for the ball that he has shown with the Knights this season.
And asked if he was surprised his call-up came so soon, after just 24 NRL games at age 20, he responded: "I don't think it has come too quick. I think I'm ready."
Ponga will come off the bench for the first time in his career against the Blues at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night with a specific role from Walters but indicated he does not know when or for how long that will be.
But he's ready for it.
"My role is to come on and just play the way I have been playing at clubland, my skill set, and don't shy away from that," Ponga said.
"I want to go out and play my game. I have the opportunity to learn off Billy [Slater] over the next few days and offer what I can do and that's how I want to go about it."
Asked whether he will have any hesitation about demanding the ball regularly like he does at Newcastle, Ponga was specific.
"I demand the ball at the Knights when I see an opportunity to attack; if you see an opportunity in front of you should be demanding the ball," he said.
"If I see an opportunity in front of me [in Origin] I will do it (demand the ball)."
Ponga conceded he had been a little overwhelmed being among his heroes of not long ago, including his boyhood idol, Billy Slater. Ponga was six when Slater made his Origin debut in 2004 and can't remember being allowed to stay up to watch the match.
Yet he does not feel the burden of expectations with the massive focus around him.
"I never do [feel the pressure]," he said.
"My role is doing my role for the boys to making my family proud and if I do that, I'm pretty happy. I don't feel any expectations, no.
"I'm trying to stay I the moment and get around the boys as much as I can and enjoy their company and that will go a long way on Sunday night.
"In some way I've looked up to all the boys in there, it's pretty overwhelming but I'm here and I feel comfortable.
"Billy was the main one [hero], obviously being a fullback and the best over the last 10 years or so.
"I'm looking forward to picking his brain which I have already started to do."
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