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Why Ponga reckons World Cup Nines will be 'pretty scary'

He's among the most-feared attackers in the game with a lethal sidestep capable of making even the best defenders look silly.

But Kalyn Ponga reckons it'll be frightening to face a host of similarly fleet-footed players at the inaugural World Cup Nines comprised of 12 countries.

The 21-year-old Knights fullback will be an automatic pick for Australia provided he's fit and available when the competition rolls around on October 18-19 at Bankwest Stadium.

"I'm pretty excited to see the skill that's going to be displayed – with all the nations that are involved, it's going to be pretty scary to come up against some of the teams but it will be awesome to watch," Ponga told

"There's going to be heaps of people that are just as [suited to] the format as I am. Like I said it will be pretty scary but it will be pretty fun as well."

The shortened format has been on a two-year hiatus – a teenage Ponga earned team of the tournament selection playing for the Cowboys when the pre-season NRL Auckland Nines was last held in 2017.

And though he may be a touch nervous about the competing talent on display, Ponga can't wait to weave his magic with room and time to scheme.

Why World 9s so important for smaller nations

"I've obviously missed Nines. I think it's definitely more suitable to my game," he said.

"I'm all for more space – obviously Nines allows that sort of [expansive] game-play. It'll probably just be more instinct and playing off-the-cuff.

"It allows you to throw the ball around a bit more and be more creative. That's sort of what I hope to do."

Among the most tantalising possibilities of the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s is seeing Ponga and fellow world-class custodian James Tedesco on the same team.

Ponga already knows what he'll do if he and Tedesco line up together.

"I'd just give him the ball early and then support him. I won't even be able to keep up with him," Ponga laughed.

"Those sort of players, to be able to butt heads with them will be pretty fun."

Australia's pool includes the USA, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand – but Ponga highlighted another country as the one to watch.

"Fiji, I think they're going to be pretty solid. We all know how dangerous they are in the normal rounds," he said. "Especially them in open space will be pretty scary."

Ponga is expecting a "party" vibe in the vein of Rugby Sevens and encouraged supporters to fill Parramatta's state-of-the-art Bankwest Stadium.

"From a fans' point of view, because it's so fast-paced and so much is going on in a short amount of time, I think the atmosphere will be awesome," he said.

"It's just a fun environment and one that you want to be amongst."

For ticket and travel packages for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, head to


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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