Ponga will play in Origin II
NEWCASTLE sensation Kalyn Ponga has capped a meteoric rise by clinching his State of Origin debut for Queensland.
News Corp can reveal Queensland selectors can no longer ignore Ponga's attacking magic with the 20-year-old whiz-kid securing his maiden Maroons jumper for Origin II next Sunday night.
It is understood Ponga will be named as Queensland's No. 14 utility at the expense of Broncos pivot Anthony Milford, who has been axed after his eleventh-hour bench call-up for Origin I.
Milford is in camp in Sydney with the Samoan team ahead of the Pacific Test against Tonga.
Storm champion and former Queensland skipper Cameron Smith called for Ponga to be blooded after today's Melbourne-Knights clash and Maroons coach Kevin Walters has heeded his advice.
The selection of Ponga caps a whirlwind 12 months for the exciting young gun born in Western Australia.
Last year, Ponga was still eligible for both New Zealand and Queensland before opting for the Maroons just six months ago after being named in their Emerging Origin squad.
Now he is a fully-fledged Maroon after just 24 NRL games, with Smith, who skippered Queensland to a series victory last year, adamant Ponga is ready to terrorise the Blues at ANZ Stadium.
"I think he has to be there just given the situation for Queensland," said Smith, who opposed Ponga in the Storm's 28-10 defeat of the Knights today.
"It's a must-win game - we all know that and Kevvie understands that - and you need someone who can create opportunities for the team and can win a game.
"Certainly Kalyn Ponga is someone who can do that."
Ponga was tantalisingly close to a debut in Origin I, flying to Melbourne to be part of their extended squad, but Walters has axed Milford to pave the way for the attacking ace to be the Maroons' Game Two super sub.
And Ponga may yet start at fullback if Maroons champion Billy Slater fails to recover by Wednesday from a hamstring complaint.
Told of Smith's comments, Ponga said he was ready to play at fullback or anywhere required of him as a bench utility.
"Put me anywhere and I will play," he said.
"Honestly, I would love to play (Origin), I just want to play."
Asked whether Maroons selection had played on his mind ahead of the Melbourne game, Ponga said: "Not really, I never feel like I have to impress anyone. My mind is pretty chilled."
The Maroons will name an 18-man squad on Monday as they fight to save their dynasty from officially crumbling at ANZ Stadium.
In other selection news, injured prop Dylan Napa (ankle) will be given every chance to prove his fitness, while Jarrod Wallace has been retained despite his poor game in Origin I.
It is believed Tim Glasby will be named 18th man on standby for Napa, with the Storm veteran just edging out Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue by virtue of his Origin experience after his debut last year.
There was speculation Cowboys forward Coen Hess would be dropped but he will be retained, as will clubmate Gavin Cooper, who will start in the back-row on the left edge.
MAROONS LIKELY TEAM FOR GAME TWO: Billy Slater, Valentine Holmes, Greg Inglis (C), Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Cameron Munster, Ben Hunt, Dylan Napa, Andrew McCullough, Jarrod Wallace, Gavin Cooper, Felise Kaufusi, Josh McGuire. Bench: Kalyn Ponga, Josh Papalii, Coen Hess, Jai Arrow. 18th man: Tim Glasby.