Lockyer says Ponga up for the defensive challenge
Darren Lockyer is confident Kalyn Ponga can make a defensive adjustment and provide the Maroons with a boost in the front line in State of Origin game two on Sunday night.
How Queensland opt to play Ponga off the bench will be determined by how the match is unfolding.
The Maroons switched Ben Hunt to hooker in Origin I and took Andrew McCullough off the field to get Anthony Milford into the action, but the move failed to deliver any spark in attack.
Ponga shared fullback duties with Billy Slater at training on Thursday but could find himself in the front line on Sunday night, particularly if the Maroons are chasing points late in the clash.
Lockyer, who attended an Immortal shortlist announcement in Sydney on Thursday, became an international fullback in 1997 before shifting to five-eighth permanently in 2004 to play out the remaining seven years successfully in the halves.
"We don't know how much time Kalyn is going to get on the field, it depends how the game is going," Lockyer said.
"There's no doubt with 30 minutes to go NSW will target him if he's in the front line because he's not used to it.
"It's a different challenge. If he has to defend in the middle he'll be ready for it.
"He's a good kid with a good attitude. Whatever assignment Kevvie [Walters] gives him he'll work hard to be as ready as he can be."
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Ponga's club season at the Knights has been such that it was too hard to leave him out as pressure mounted in the sunshine state after the 22-12 loss in Origin I.
Lockyer says he's never seen a more promising player than Ponga in Telstra Premiership history.
"Not at this age, I guess Billy Slater, there are similarities," Lockyer said.
"I would say once Billy retires that Kalyn steps in seamlessly and all going well will be there for a long time.
"Talent at the same time with great attitude. It's rare that we see that."
Lockyer was named alongside former Queensland coach Mal Meninga as one of 10 nominees shortlisted for immortal status on Wednesday.
An announcement on the ninth and 10th immortals will be made in August.
"You've only got to look at the names in the shortlist and you pinch yourself," Lockyer said.
"As a kid you just wanted to play football for the Broncos. Wind the clock 25 years later and I'm standing here today. You don't play the game for accolades but you're very privileged to feel a part of it."
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