Renouf: Left-field option to get best out of Ponga in Origin II
I can't wait to see Kalyn Ponga in a Queensland jersey, taking on the Blues. The kid's something special and you had to pick him on his incredible form for Newcastle. The big question around Ponga though is where does Kevvie Walters play him?
He can play a lot of positions, he can add an X-Factor to the Maroons attack and it's a lot like when we saw his idol Billy Slater introduced into the Queensland side as a 20-year-old in 2004 (on the wing) – and look what happened in his second game … that chip and regather try that no one will ever forget.
That's what I'm trying to get my head around.
If there is an injury anywhere on the field, he could give you the cover.
He could come on and provide a massive impact anywhere in the backline if that happens. If a back-rower goes down, he could share a role there and his footwork in the middle would be a massive threat to the Blues. But how would he handle defending there when he's not used to the workload?
Yet, if there are no injuries, what does Kevvie do?
You can't take Slater out of fullback. We need his talk and especially his combination with five-eighth Cameron Munster.
I wouldn't play Ponga on the wing; he needs to get his hands on the ball more.
I wouldn't break up the halves and play him at No.6.
And you don't let him sit on the bench and bring him on for the last 10 minutes for the experience. That's a waste of his extraordinary skill set and the threat he poses to open up a match.
So if Kev wants a lift in their performance, more than likely it could be putting Ponga on for Will Chambers in the centres. That's not singling Chambers out, who could have a stint in the back row. I'm just mulling over where Ponga could fit in and do some damage.
And wouldn't that be a match-up for the ages – the two super young talents going head to head in Ponga and Latrell Mitchell.
The other way Kev can use him is certainly as a super-sub in the back row, playing on the edge or getting into dummy half a lot as the Blues forwards tire late in the first half. But fullback, wing and in the halves are not suitable in my mind.
One thing is not under question though, is the Queensland forwards have to take an improved attitude to Sydney and they have to ambush the Blues pack early.
It looks like Dylan Napa will play and he's saying he owes his teammates after his game-one performance.
Jarrod Wallace is saying the same thing.
Well, they have to be true to their words if Queensland are going to save the series.
It's all between the ears for the Queensland pack now. They went down there last year after Andrew Fifita carved them up in game one and showed the right attitude. They addressed the little one-percenters and made much better contact on him, driving into him in numbers. Fifita was contained big time.
But Queensland have to start a lot better than they did in game one, and that match in Sydney last year, or it will be curtains for them.
They have to shut down the Blues pack down early and on the back of that get early points. I know that's pretty basic, but that's what they need to do.
And if they ambush them from the get-go, that minimises the crowd factor too because they're taking about a full house at ANZ Stadium.
They got away with a poor start last year in Sydney – they were behind 16-6 at the break – but Queensland had Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith (and don't forget Matt Gillett) to get them home.
It's a different side this time, a far less experienced outfit, and that's why I feel they have to start well, knuckle down into their game and stick at it.
The Blues won't do much different than what they did at the MCG, even without Reagan Campbell-Gillard who was tremendous in the opening game.
I feel so much for Ryan James. To get his hopes up again after a call to say he was in the squad, and everyone expected him to be next in line to be starting prop, only to be moved aside again – this time for Matt Prior – is pretty hard to swallow.
He could not have done more to say "pick me" for this match. He was playing well anyway and then stepped up even more in his last two games for Titans. He's been on fire, and champing at the bit to put on a NSW jersey.
I hope he sticks at it because I believe he is an Origin player, no doubt at all, with his workrate, ability to play long minutes, his mobility for a big man and incredible consistency.
He might need a bit more work to play that aggressive style Freddy Fittler wants. But it just typifies how many forwards NSW have at their disposal compared to Queensland.
So … it's just in the head for Queensland now.
They have Slater back which will add so much belief to the rest of the squad. His experience and communication from the back, let alone he fact he is still the best fullback in the game, is a massive plus.
They've got him back, they've had a smoother preparation (touch wood), they know what NSW will to throw at them (speed around the ruck with James Tedesco and Damien Cook real threats plus plenty of strike out wide).
And to counter-punch whatever the Blues throw at them, they now have a special young talent in Ponga in their armoury.
I'm going to be like thousands of others though … just waiting to see how Kevvie uses him.
Don't miss Game II of Origin at ANZ Stadium on Sunday June 24. Get your tickets here