NEWS Slater reveals possible surprise duo for Maroons

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Elite fullbacks Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga could still both be in the Queensland team coach Billy Slater will name for the State of Origin series opener.

"I'm open to anything. I'm not against trying to evolve our game and think about it in different ways," Slater told AAP.

"That is how I was as a player. It is about what suits your team. I am sure they would like to be teammates one day.

"Whether it can work, I am not too sure. I watch our players and the habits they have got in their game and try and build a game plan around our strengths so they can be at their best."

Newcastle's Ponga, with seven Origin games to his credit, was integral to the Maroons' 2022 series win in his finest performance for the state.

In 2023 he suffered multiple concussions and, on recovery, selflessly decided to commit to club football where he led the Knights to the NRL finals.

Broncos custodian Walsh shone in his two winning Maroons outings in 2023 at No.1 before being suspended for game three.

One of the pair, fitness pending, will wear the No.1 jersey in the Origin opener in Sydney on June 5. The other could be elsewhere in the 17.

Ponga came off the bench in his Origin debut in 2018 and played a stellar role as a roving creator of havoc.

Walsh played as a utility on occasion when he first came into the NRL with the Warriors while being mentored by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in 2021.

"I think anything is possible," Slater said when asked if Walsh could play another position such as wing for the Maroons.

"I don't build the team now. It is the players' role to build habits in their game and my role to watch them now.

"In 40-odd days we accumulate all the actions they have built into their game and work it out."

The habits of both players at fullback, asides from their acknowledged razzle dazzle with the ball, have impressed Slater.

As an elite custodian for Melbourne, Queensland and Australia, the Maroons mentor valued the defensive and organisational side of his role as much as the attacking aspect and he looks for the same ethos in his players.

"Their movements off the football are really impressive. Their defensive movements at the back are really good," Slater said.

"I value the movements they make without the football for their team.

"Both of them are putting themselves in positions to be involved in the game. That's something they have built in their game and they have grown in that area."

While Ponga was unavailable last year, Slater is assured his commitment to the Maroons has always been rock solid.

"Sometimes circumstances out of your control come up ... but the Queenslander in Kalyn I have never questioned," Slater said.

"There were some pretty influential players in that 2022 series and none more so than Kalyn."

Canberra Times
 
I bleed Maroon

I bleed Maroon

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Apr 17, 2013
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Frankly I'm kind of hoping Slater picks Ponga. I know Reece deserves it more, but if we can keep him in club land throughout the Origin period, that could be massive for us. It's not like Ponga isn't always one sneeze away from another concussion anyway, and guess who is the first man up if he does.
 
Fitzy

Fitzy

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Sep 10, 2018
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Frankly I'm kind of hoping Slater picks Ponga. I know Reece deserves it more, but if we can keep him in club land throughout the Origin period, that could be massive for us. It's not like Ponga isn't always one sneeze away from another concussion anyway, and guess who is the first man up if he does.
I think it’s one of those things we just have to live with long term. I think Walsh deserves it and he is the smarter person to choose considering he tore it up last year, has improved in a lot of key areas since then whilst maintaining that form and is 5 years Ponga’s junior.
 
Harry Sack

Harry Sack

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Jun 12, 2013
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QLD can't go wrong with either player, but I just can't see how you can have both in the same 17.
The only way it realistically happens is if they drop Hunt and I can't see that happening. Plus it would be a massive mistake. Wouldn't surprise me if this was his final series though.
 
I bleed Maroon

I bleed Maroon

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Apr 17, 2013
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Reece in Game 1, Ponga in Game 2, whoever played the best gets the spot in Game 3.
 
I bleed Maroon

I bleed Maroon

International Rep
Apr 17, 2013
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What’s happening man? You have just gone full Facebook on us.

Not sure what Facebook has to do with it, but if you're in a position where you have 2 fullbacks that are just as good as each other (I am trying REALLY hard to put my personal bias aside here), healthy and ready to be selected and you don't want to compromise your overall strategy by playing one of them out of position just so you can say "well he was in the team", then you have to find ways to accommodate.

If Slater thinks he can carry one of them on the bench as a utility then let him. He's the coach, I'm not, but when you're coming up against a Blues pack as big and skillful as it is, you better be packing some heat of your own.
 
Fitzy

Fitzy

NRL Captain
Sep 10, 2018
3,980
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Not sure what Facebook has to do with it, but if you're in a position where you have 2 fullbacks that are just as good as each other (I am trying REALLY hard to put my personal bias aside here), healthy and ready to be selected and you don't want to compromise your overall strategy by playing one of them out of position just so you can say "well he was in the team", then you have to find ways to accommodate.

If Slater thinks he can carry one of them on the bench as a utility then let him. He's the coach, I'm not, but when you're coming up against a Blues pack as big and skillful as it is, you better be packing some heat of your own.
It’s the sort of opinion you get on Facebook. You pick whoever is deserving and the other one sucks shit until the one who gets picked demonstrates otherwise. Don’t play a different fullback every game that’s the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard.
 
Mr Fourex

Mr Fourex

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Apr 9, 2012
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Reece in Game 1, Ponga in Game 2, whoever played the best gets the spot in Game 3.
No.....we are not "sharing" the position.

whichever out of Walsh and Ponga is in the better form, they get picked.

I think Ponga would be a better fit on the wing than Walsh.
 

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