State of Origin talk can carry on year round, so now is as good a time as any to start discussing who is worthy of selection.
Kalyn Ponga has the backing of Cameron Smith for inclusion as a utility for Queensland and Newcastle Knights Coach Nathan Brown would second that backing.
Ponga is doing plenty to further his own cause and he played a key role during Friday’s game with the Manly Sea Eagles when the Knights’ took the game from Manly in the dying minutes.
The debate regarding Ponga now seems to centre whether the talented fullback is mature enough to handle the spotlight of Origin play, as he is just 20 years of age. History shows that Origin selection often goes to more established players, even when on-field results might show that a younger star is the better player.
When it comes to where to utilise Ponga, Maroons Captain Cameron Smith, appearing on Sunday Night with Matty Johns said, “Whether he gets a shot at a utility role … he certainly fits that value for a footy side. He can play pretty much anywhere in the backline.I’m sure he could cover halves easily as well.”
That assessment would seem to perfectly define the word utility.
Smith is making his assessment based on his recent first-hand encounter with Ponga, when Smith’s Melbourne Storm side won a round six match with the Knights.
“I remember playing him a couple of weeks ago and every time he got the footy in his hands he was a threat,” Smith said. “I was hitting the panic button every time he got it because you just didn’t know what he was going to do.Sometimes I think he doesn’t know what he’s going to do — he just plays the ball, sees what’s in front of him.”
Many athletes can relate to that last bit. Thinking too much often slows down a player’s reaction time by that small fraction of a second that permits the opposition to negate an advantage.