Text Title: Kalyn Ponga called in for Queensland but not certain to make his Origin debut
Author: Anthony Pengilly
Text Type: Article: https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/league/104453953/kalyn-ponga-called-in-for-queensland-but-not-certain-to-make-his-origin-debut
Date Finished: 15th of June
Kalyn Ponga is a fresh-faced 20-year-old Fullback who has had an instant impact in the National Rugby League (NRL) playing for North Queensland in the 2016-17 and is currently playing for the Newcastle Knights on a four-year contract. Ponga’s main attributes are his cunning footwork and explosive speed which has put his game on another level for such a junior player. Ponga had the option of playing for New Zealand or Australia as he has New Zealand parents, but was born in Australia; he eventually committed to Queensland, therefore, Australia as well.
Billy Slater has been the go-to Fullback for Queensland since 2004, but when he was ruled out of State of Origin’s first game with a hamstring injury, and Michael Morgan is the most likely to start at fullback; it leaves a hole in the squad for a reserve fullback. Can Ponga fill that hole?
I would recommend this text to any Rugby League fan, especially someone who is a Queensland supporter or wants to know about the depth in the Maroons squad. The reason that I would encourage you to read this text is that it explains Kalyn Ponga’s situation perfectly with Queensland, and also touches on his competitors for the position as well as his past career achievements and important decisions. Anthony Pengilly has done an excellent job of explaining Ponga’s strengths, and why he has a serious case of being put into the team as the Maroons 3rd string fullback, for example in this piece from the text he talks about Ponga’s kicking ability, “Walters had already spruiked the form of Ponga before he sat down to decide his game, one team, while also highlighting his goalkicking ability when there are a dearth of sharpshooters north of the border. Winger Valentine Holmes, who doesn’t kick at NRL level, has been given the task in the series opener but could very well surrender the role to Ponga, if he plays and when he gets on the field, given he has been a semi-regular kicker this year for the Knights.” With Jonothan Thurston retiring from Origin football it leaves Queensland without a reliable kicker, this is a strong reason why Ponga might be selected to play. Pengilly has also included some facts that many people will find interesting about Ponga’s possible call-up, like that Ben Ikin was only 18 when he debuted for Queensland in 1995 after playing 4 top-grade matches and that longtime Queensland skipper Cameron Smith had only played 18 NRL games before making his debut. If Ponga is selected to play in Game 1 then he will be one of the least experienced players ever to play State of Origin after playing just 22 NRL games. This article is a great read and I would definitely recommend it to any footy fan as it is very informative and interesting.
I can relate to this text on a personal level as I also play Rugby League, and I made my debut for the Otago U15 team in the fullback position. Like Ponga, I am not the biggest of players but utilise my speed and skill to compete with the bigger and more powerful opponents. Before my call-up to the Otago team, I had played two seasons with the Central Otago representative team so wasn’t as experienced compared to some of the Dunedin boys; Ponga is in the same position as some of his possible Queensland teammates like Greg Inglis, Valentine Holmes, and Ben Hunt have played 254, 91 and 199 games at NRL level. Even with these heavily experienced players, Queensland Coach Kevin Walters is still giving Ponga a chance to prove why he should be included in the 17 man squad. Pengilly explains this in this part of text from the article,”It could be a gamble worth taking for Walters and the Queensland selectors, who have had Ponga on their radar after the former Cowboy’s big-money move to the Knights over summer and will delay a decision on Slater’s replacement until closer to kick-off.” This relates to me as the Otago selectors could have picked a player from Dunedin that they had seen more often, but they took a chance with myself and other players from Central Otago; this paid off as we made the final that year. Personally, I am really excited by what Ponga could bring to the Queensland team and the Origin series if he is selected. This article proves that underdogs and smaller players can actually come out on top and compete at the highest level. This also applies to anyone; even when the odds aren’t in your favour you can still overcome them.
Historically players have had to earn their Origin jersey through performing well in the NRL for at least a few seasons, but Kalyn Ponga’s quirky and quick rise through the ranks has thrust him into the spotlight. His ascension from playing schoolboy rugby for Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie), to being a possible candidate for a Maroons jersey is the complete opposite to his fellow Queenslander Ben Hunt. Hunt had to wait 5 years from his NRL debut to be included in the Maroons squad. Although they had very different paths they still ended up in the same place. This article shows that raw talent can be fast-tracked to the highest honour in Australian Rugby League, and proves that Kalyn Ponga is a very special player when others work so hard for countless seasons trying to get noticed by Origin selectors and he gets noticed after only 22 games. Ponga’s rise is uncanny and shows young players that the path to stardom can be different to what they usually see.
Does playing State of Origin hold a higher value for players than representing Australia? After reading this article it left me wondering that exact question. For many, it seems like that is the case as it is regarded as one of Australia’s greatest sporting rivalries, some would say that it is the greatest. “The youngster, who has a Kiwi dad and spent five years living in Palmerston North, did have New Zealand fans salivating over the prospect of him playing for the Kiwis, but he confirmed earlier this year a pledge of allegiance to Queensland and Australia.” This part of the text from Pengilly’s article shows that when Ponga committed to Australia, playing for Queensland was a big part of his decision. Because Origin holds such a high value for players it is starting to decrease the prestige of international competitions, as many players see that second to Origin.
This article has similarities to another article on same the website Stuff. The second article is titled “Darius Boyd chooses New Zealand holiday over State of Origin” unfortunately, Darius Boyd isn’t playing for New Zealand he is just holidaying here as he was left out of Kevin Walters original Maroons squad as well. These two articles are similar as they both describe players who were left out of the original Queensland side but, have ended up in two very different places.
To conclude, I am extremely excited to see Kalyn Ponga get given a shot in a Queensland jersey. Even though I am a New South Wales supporter, I will still be excited to see him on an Origin pitch nonetheless; I have watched Ponga since his Churchie days and have seen how he has evolved and grown as a player. He has become my favourite fullback since Ben Barba left the NRL in 2016 and has proven why he deserves to be classed as a superstar.