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
 
Mustafur

Mustafur

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Jun 13, 2019
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I think Walsh is a better fullback option because Ponga has more utility value in other positions and allows us to have both, if Ponga is fullback Walsh wouldn't be in the team.
 
Mr Fourex

Mr Fourex

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Apr 9, 2012
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I think Walsh is a better fullback option because Ponga has more utility value in other positions and allows us to have both, if Ponga is fullback Walsh wouldn't be in the team.
That said....we can't afford to have Ponga on the bench, as well as Hunt.

He's either in the run on side
or not at all.
 
Fitzy

Fitzy

NRL Captain
Sep 10, 2018
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That said....we can't afford to have Ponga on the bench, as well as Hunt.

He's either in the run on side
or not at all.
Whilst I don’t think the Hunt and Ponga dynamic is ideal from a middle depth point of view. Both Carrigan and Cotter cover the second row in terms of injuries there so we don’t need to cover that position on the bench but after that you have to realise Ponga’s minutes unless someone goes down will be at lock and usually throughout the game they have both hunt and Grant on for a period of time with one play roaming lock the other hooker. I don’t think it necessarily a big no, no. I see that there is a concern with injuries and the lot but I don’t think it’s a straight we can’t do that. I’d much rather play with Hunt and Ponga both on the bench than just Grant at hooker and Ponga 14. I think game 1 he will go safe and game 2 regardless of the result game 1 he will play Ponga off the bench.

1 thing is for sure is that I personally believe you must pick the 21 year old at fullback when they absolutely tore it up the year before on debut. You have to.
 
Scorchie

Scorchie

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Mar 16, 2008
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Let’s face it, Walsh would’ve been chosen over Ponga last year regardless of his “withdrawl” because he was rubbish. He had a good end of season but is one concussion off another long absence.

You’d play Ponga as 14 and ask him to tear it up like Kodi did for us in 2015.
 
1

1910

International Rep
Apr 14, 2013
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I think Walsh is a better fullback option because Ponga has more utility value in other positions and allows us to have both, if Ponga is fullback Walsh wouldn't be in the team.

Walsh came off the bench for Queensland in 2019 because Hammer was the fullback.

Came on after 66 minutes and scored a try.

By the "Test" in October Walsh was fullback; but he'd certainly be a handful off the bench.

Slater came off the bench twice in 2008 and had a great impact on the game. He touched the ball 47 times in those two games and scored a try bacing up JT on the inside and made nearly 100m both games.

Walsh could do a similar thing.
 
Xzei

Xzei

State of Origin Rep
Mar 13, 2017
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Qld forward stocks so good i think you could play with just two on the bench
 
Broncs1459

Broncs1459

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Aug 24, 2012
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One of Ponga or Capewell have to be there because QLD are fucked if a fullback, centre, winger goes down early.
 
HarryAllan7

HarryAllan7

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Jul 20, 2017
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Walsh fullback, Ponga on the wing.

Slater, Boyd, Hunt ... all QLD fullbacks who spent time playing on the wing.
 
Sproj

Sproj

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Sep 6, 2013
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If you wanted to, you could also play Ponga at centre and put Coates and Cobbo on the wings.

To me, the best back five right now for Qld is pretty clear cut:
Walsh, Ponga, Hammer, Coates and Cobbo with Tuilagi as next cab off the rank.

I think the 6 position is really interesting though because Munster obviously has a mortgage on it but then you have Mam and Dearden next in line who are both completely different players but both fantastic in their own right.
 
B

Bongo

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Oct 10, 2013
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Walsh fullback, Ponga on the wing.

Slater, Boyd, Hunt ... all QLD fullbacks who spent time playing on the wing.
Ponga debuted for cowboys there didn't he? I wouldn't do it. I'd have 2 of Taulagi, Coates or Cobbo. Potentially put Cobbo and centre depending on hammer fitness. A lot of time to make the call. Hunt makes more sense on the bench over Ponga because he can play hooker and half. We need a Tonie Carroll type on the bench that can equally play centre or second row. I can see why people suggest Capewell on the bench for this purpose. Is there anyone else?
 
Sproj

Sproj

Immortal
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Sep 6, 2013
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Ponga debuted for cowboys there didn't he? I wouldn't do it. I'd have 2 of Taulagi, Coates or Cobbo. Potentially put Cobbo and centre depending on hammer fitness. A lot of time to make the call. Hunt makes more sense on the bench over Ponga because he can play hooker and half. We need a Tonie Carroll type on the bench that can equally play centre or second row. I can see why people suggest Capewell on the bench for this purpose. Is there anyone else?

Ponga is big enough to play in the forwards, he did it in his early origins.

You could definitely run with:
14. Hunt
17. Ponga
 
B

Bongo

NRL Player
Oct 10, 2013
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Ponga is big enough to play in the forwards, he did it in his early origins.

You could definitely run with:
14. Hunt
17. Ponga
I'd prefer a full-time forward for that spot in case of injury and HIA long minutes.

I am in the Walsh or Ponga Camp. Or potentially Ponga or Hunt camp but not all three.
 
BroncsFan

BroncsFan

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Jul 28, 2016
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If you wanted to, you could also play Ponga at centre and put Coates and Cobbo on the wings.

To me, the best back five right now for Qld is pretty clear cut:
Walsh, Ponga, Hammer, Coates and Cobbo with Tuilagi as next cab off the rank.

I think the 6 position is really interesting though because Munster obviously has a mortgage on it but then you have Mam and Dearden next in line who are both completely different players but both fantastic in their own right.
Workrate would be a concern with those players in the back 5.

Walsh doesn't take yardage hitups (thankfully, because you don't want him bashed)
Ponga would have to up his workrate significantly
Hammer not a high workrate player at all

So it basically all falls onto Coates and Cobbo... and let's be real Coates gets folded half the time, so it's mostly Cobbo taking the hitups in that back 5.

Ponga is also somewhat untried on the wing... he can definitely play there, but wingers are required to do miraculous putdowns nowadays... Ponga doesn't need to do that as a fullback so it's not really known if that's in his repertoire. Wing is a specialist position nowadays.

I think centre is maybe a better call for Ponga, but that's only if Billy can create a system where he's roaming like a second fullback, but he's not a full on physical runner like Turbo is.

It's tough because we have good options.

Val on the wing... removes him from defence, he takes tons of hitups and he's a great goal kicker (usually)... he's also clutch in attack for origin.
Coates and Taulagi haven't let Qld down as yet... Taulagi was phenomenal in defence last year and Coates offers an automatic aerial threat (if only for bat backs).
Hammer was awesome at left centre last year... completely shutdown his opposite in defence and finished off tries that others may not with his speed.
Cobbo has been great at times on the wing for Qld, but I think he lost his spot last year... so he might be behind Coates at least. As a centre I think he's been one of the form centres so far this year... he's a pure footy player that is creating opportunities. If his defence continues to improve he's almost an automatic selection in there.

Maybe something like the below is where I'm at... but haven't thought too hard on it:
1. Walsh / Ponga... completely up to Billy here. They're very similar in play styles. Walsh is quicker and super solid defence in origin last year... Ponga probably has more runs on the board and may be more confident in what you get on gameday. (Walsh higher ceiling versus Ponga higher floor)
2. Coates... aerial threat and takes hitups, even though he gets folded
3/4. Hammer and Cobbo... decision on side is up to Billy, but Cobbo is far more dangerous on the left so I'd be inclined to see Hammer on the right
5. Val right wing... he offers plenty whenever he plays for Qld and his biggest deficiency the last few years has been defence... far less decision making required at wing. He's an excellent winger, probably better on the wing than centre.

Whether Walsh or Ponga make it to the bench is based on how Billy makes up the forward pack and his plan for the 17 jersey.
 
HarryAllan7

HarryAllan7

QCup Player
Jul 20, 2017
901
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Ponga debuted for cowboys there didn't he? I wouldn't do it. I'd have 2 of Taulagi, Coates or Cobbo. Potentially put Cobbo and centre depending on hammer fitness. A lot of time to make the call. Hunt makes more sense on the bench over Ponga because he can play hooker and half. We need a Tonie Carroll type on the bench that can equally play centre or second row. I can see why people suggest Capewell on the bench for this purpose. Is there anyone else?

Agreed that you can't possibly go away from Hunt @ 14.

But a backline like this would be hard to beat:

1) Walsh
2) Tualagi
3) Tabuai-Fidow
4) Holmes
5) Ponga

I don't think Cobbo is anywhere near ready for origin at any position (let alone centre), but if Hammer can't go then I don't see many other options. Coates could potentially replace Tualagi, but I would personally prefer Tualagi for the increased metres and hard carries out of his own end.

NSW have had the far superior team on paper for years following the mass exodus of the 8-straight team, and they failed to turn it into much success.

This year we might actually have the better team talent-wise.
 
J

Johnny92

NRL Player
Jul 3, 2021
1,899
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Ponga is big enough to play in the forwards, he did it in his early origins.

You could definitely run with:
14. Hunt
17. Ponga
Patty or Cotter in the front row and Ponga at 13 is a left field option. Whether you start him there or bring him off the bench.
Reece and Ponga are wasted sitting on the wing or in the centres
 
Xzei

Xzei

State of Origin Rep
Mar 13, 2017
6,134
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Wouldnt be to quick to pencil hammer in he has a grade 2 hamstring tear i think 4-6 weeks
 

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