Ponga’s vision of Walsh combo lifts Maroons for decider

Joel Gould |

Maroons fullback Reece Walsh (R) is a dynamo returning star Kalyn Ponga wants to link with.
Maroons fullback Reece Walsh (R) is a dynamo returning star Kalyn Ponga wants to link with.

If Kalyn Ponga’s vision of combining with Reece Walsh comes to fruition in the State of Origin series decider, Queensland will be in a strong position to win.

The Maroons’ two best fullbacks will play together in the Origin arena for the first time on July 17 at Suncorp Stadium.

Before Ponga injured his foot while playing for Newcastle in round seven Maroons coach Billy Slater told AAP he was looking at a way to have Walsh and the Knights skipper involved in the same Origin team.

He has got his wish with Walsh to start at fullback and Ponga named on the bench after he made a successful NRL return in Newcastle’s 16-12 win over Canberra on Sunday.

Kalyn Ponga.
Kalyn Ponga tries to escape Raiders defenders during the Knights’ win in Canberra. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

Ponga and Walsh are both excitement machines capable of turning a match with their speed and skill.

Ponga, 26, said the thought of linking with Walsh for the Maroons had been at the forefront of his mind.

“I have been thinking about that for a little while. I have visions of him going down the sideline and passing it back in to me,” Ponga said.

“It is exciting and I can’t wait to get out there, train with everyone and build combinations.

“Hopefully we can get everything right. There is a lot of work to be done between now and (July 17). There are combinations to be made but that’s the exciting part.”

Ponga is as much a fan of Walsh’s play as the Queensland public is.

“I love what everyone else does watching him. His speed, elusiveness, how exciting he is, everything, Ponga said.

“My job when I come on, I still haven’t worked that out, but I just have to give him the footy and let him open up I guess.”

Ponga had his best Origin performance in the decider at Suncorp Stadium in 2022, the last time he wore a Maroons jersey.

Kalyn Ponga.
Kalyn Ponga savours the Origin series-sealing win in 2022. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

Slater gets to play a trump card by bringing back Ponga to partner with Walsh in a combination that has the coach full of expectation.

“I always thought they would love to be teammates and now they get the opportunity. How we go about it, we will build that over the next nine days,” Slater said.

“I am pretty excited for them both to go out there and get their footy on. We know what they bring, they are very exciting players, but at the same time we need to get our footy right from the start. We can’t be on the back foot like we were in game two (in a 38-18 loss).

“We need to raise the standards of our game to get there.”

AAP