Maroons legend Trevor Gillmeister insists Kalyn Ponga will be able to handle a starting position for Queensland this year after hailing his "cool as a cucumber" approach to his State of Origin debut last year.
The Newcastle tyro, just 20, came off the bench for Queensland and starred in the middle of the park in Game Two of last year's Holden State of Origin series.
Gillmeister was emphatic when asked wheher Ponga would handle a starting position in either the halves or fullback in 2019 if given the opportunity.
"Ask him and he will tell you. He is not lacking in confidence. He will be fine,” Gillmeister said.
"He is a fair lump of a young fella and watching the highlights [of the Knights trial with the Dragons] the other night it looks like he has filled out as well. He is big enough. He is an exciting talent."
Ponga sets up Fitzgibbon
Gillmeister, who was on the Maroons coaching staff last year, said Ponga’s approach to the ultimate challenge of playing in the Origin cauldron convinced him he was a unique talent.
"When you normally talk to blokes before they debut they say 'what’s it like?’ and I say 'you know when you do pre-season, it is 10 times harder than that'," Gillmeister grinned.
"Then a lot of them come off and say 'yeah, you were right' but Kalyn was cool as a cucumber and he said 'that was great fun'. I thought 'holy hell', I've never heard anyone say that so he's a pretty cool customer.
"He is obviously learning the six position and I think from Queensland's perspective the more different positions he can play the better for the team, obviously fullback and in the halves."
On where Ponga will play, Gillmeister said it was "a good headache" for the Maroons selectors to have.
The former Queensland captain said the Maroons lacked depth in the front row which is why he wants to see veteran Cowboys prop Matt Scott recalled.
"Obviously we don’t have the depth NSW have. That's a fact," Gillmeister said.
"I just think we are getting a bit limited in the front row if we have a few injuries. That's our biggest concern and I've said that to Geno [Queensland chairman of selectors Gene Miles] for the last couple of years.
"I was up on the Sunshine Coast on the weekend and it is to good to see Matt Scott back and healthy. Hopefully Scotty can stay injury free and I wouldn't be hesitant to pick him if he is playing good footy."
Gillmeister saud Scott's influence on the young props coming through could not be underestimated.
"I was speaking to him and he reckons he has never felt better. He is a champion fella and it would be great to have him there anyway for the young blokes to learn off him – the Jai Arrows and the Jarrod Wallaces and all those young blokes to get a feel for the game and what he thinks about the game as well," Gillmeister said.
"I am really hopeful that Scotty can pull a Maroon jersey on this year."
Gillmeister, a Former Origin Greats (FOGS) board member, was speaking at the announcement of a three-year partnership between the FOGS and the QRL. The FOGS logo will be displayed on all QRL community match footballs, from under 6s through to the senior men's and women's grades.