Kalyn draws inspiration from above
Game two of the State of Origin series will not only be one of the biggest moments in Kalyn Ponga's blossoming career, the week-long build-up has also been an exciting and nerve-wracking time for his family.
Thrilled to see his son called into the Queensland side after he narrowly missed a start in game one, Ponga's father Andre told NRL.com he is still trying to process the fact the Newcastle Knights fullback will be competing on rugby league's brightest stage on Sunday night at ANZ Stadium.
"The more I think about it, it's crazy," Ponga snr said from the family home in Newcastle.
Despite mounting pressure on Ponga to save the series for Queensland after a game one loss in Melbourne, Andre feels at relative ease, knowing his 20-year-old son handles the ever-growing media circus that accompanies Origin in his usual calm and collected manner.
"I feel nervous watching him anyway, but I'm just really excited for Sunday," he said.
"We know him and he's not even nervous. I mean he probably will be when he runs out ... he's just happy to be in that environment.
"As unreal as it is, it's his job. So because he's not nervous, I'm not nervous."
With more than 20 family members expected to be in the stands coming from as far away as Western Australia, New Zealand and Queensland, getting together to appreciate Kalyn and each other is more than a habit for the Pongas - it's the family staple.
For Andre and wife Adine, they've experienced the highest of the highs and some shocking lows.
After a family tragedy cruelly took then seven-year-old Kalyn's little brother Kacey away from the family, life for the Pongas changed forever.
"It's been 14 years since the accident. I can talk about it now but there was a time where I obviously couldn't," Andre said.
"As a family, he is still part of our family. We took him back to Palmerston North, New Zealand."
Now for the Pongas (seven-year-old sister Kayley and 'Milo', Kalyn's French Bulldog), family time is something that is treasured.
"We celebrate Kacey in our own little ways," Andre beams proudly.
"Do you remember the New Zealand bumble bee? Kalyn has that tattooed on his ankle. It's a Kiwi thing.
"Our relationship is pretty awesome as a father and son. I don't take that for granted either; I'm really lucky.
"Kacey is a big part of us. We do the Kacey kiss, which is three kisses on the cheek, and Kalyn is still doing it to this day. It's those little touches that are so important.
"I also keep saying it's probably not fair on the opposition because Kalyn has his brother with him all the time playing football. Since he began playing, it's something we've always said between us."
No doubt little Kacey will be watching over his big brother as he runs out for the Maroons on Sunday night.