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
 
BroncsFan

BroncsFan

International Captain
Contributor
Jul 28, 2016
20,856
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They have a perfectly good fullback waiting in the wings if the idiot coach wasnt fixated on moving him to 6.
Surely he plays him at fullback... he needs spark with Ponga gone, because he sure as shit is not going to get it from Gamble, Hastings, Cogger and Phoenix.

If those four were molded into some combination of each other... it'd still be the same fucking player!!
 
Wolfie

Wolfie

International Captain
Jan 14, 2015
22,397
35,777
Surely he plays him at fullback... he needs spark with Ponga gone, because he sure as shit is not going to get it from Gamble, Hastings, Cogger and Phoenix.

If those four were molded into some combination of each other... it'd still be the same fucking player!!

From what i gather reading bits here and there, O'Brien wants him at 6 no matter what. He may change his mind now Ponga is out.

Their problem is though even with Ponga their halves are all bang average. They offer no direction to the team at all.
 
Mustafur

Mustafur

State of Origin Captain
Contributor
Jun 13, 2019
9,225
13,427
Surely he plays him at fullback... he needs spark with Ponga gone, because he sure as shit is not going to get it from Gamble, Hastings, Cogger and Phoenix.

If those four were molded into some combination of each other... it'd still be the same fucking player!!
I Still can't believe they put Gamble at Fullback in the last game, he is more suited to playing in the middle than being in the most athletic position of the team.
 
Mustafur

Mustafur

State of Origin Captain
Contributor
Jun 13, 2019
9,225
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I would love to see what a good coach could do with that squad.
It wouldn't be easy to be fair, similar to Parra when Moses is out having Ponga out, the entire team has nothing to offer with a big lack of balance, they need atleast one elite spine player other than Ponga.
 
Broncs1459

Broncs1459

QCup Player
Aug 24, 2012
307
179
Everyone forgets about him but man Brimson dserves to be there. If Hammer is out put him at centre and he will do a fine job. Such a talented player and love his resilience
 
Mustafur

Mustafur

State of Origin Captain
Contributor
Jun 13, 2019
9,225
13,427
Everyone forgets about him but man Brimson dserves to be there. If Hammer is out put him at centre and he will do a fine job. Such a talented player and love his resilience
no way, Brimson is a good player but there is no position for him and he shit the bed in game 3.
 

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