'He'll be unstoppable': Slater and Holmes in awe of Ponga
"What a debut."
That's Billy Slater's assessment – and then this from Valentine Holmes:
"Give him a bit more experience and he'll be unstoppable I reckon."
These are not just words of encouragement from admiring teammates in describing Kalyn Ponga, after his debut against NSW in Sunday's Holden State of Origin game two.
These are the words from two experienced fullbacks – representative players who have nailed it in the big games of rugby league like grand finals and Test matches.
"I thought he was absolutely brilliant," Slater told NRL.com.
"Obviously we know how talented he is and what he's done this year, but to throw him in the deep end; in the middle of the field; and for him to defend the way he did; and involve himself the way he did... what a debut.
"To add to that he's got a great attitude. He's willing to listen and learn.
"He's got an extremely bright future in our game."
And that bright future is shaping up to be in Slater's No.1 jersey after he retires before the Suncorp Stadium faithful on July 11 in Origin III.
It gives Slater and Ponga one more Maroons camp to exchange ideas and practise plays.
"He doesn't need a whole heap of teaching, which is a good thing," Slater said. "He's a very talented player and a really good guy as well.
"I have a lot of admiration for him – and after what he did tonight he'll be in this jersey for a long time to come."
Ponga, the Newcastle fullback, played for Queensland mainly in the back row and occasionally at centre in his 53-minute Origin debut.
He made 10 runs for 108 metres – the only 'forward' other than Gavin Cooper to reach 100 – alongside a line break and 29 tackles.
Holmes, who topped the metre count for both states with 224 metres from two line breaks and five tackle busts, had expectations of Ponga and the 20-year-old exceeded them.
"Considering where he played, he defended really well there," Holmes told NRL.com.
"They targeted him obviously being on debut, small bloke, but I thought he was outstanding.
"He also threw a pass there that could have got me over the line for another try near the end there.
"He was creating wherever he was," Holmes said. "He definitely played well; definitely matched the hype everyone was saying about him.
"Queensland has a good future with Kalyn Ponga there."
The spontaneity and speed of Ponga's football was the most impressive. And shifting to No.1 eventually for the Maroons it spells dynamite.
"During the week we spoke of how we'd let him do his thing and let him get to us to link up because we knew he would," Holmes said.
"We tried to give him the ball as much as we could. Like I said he almost put me over for a try.
"So in the future, when he's out the back, he'll be very dangerous."
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Origin at Suncorp, there's nothing like it! Game III tickets available here