Billy Slater cool over Kalyn Ponga form ahead of State of Origin

Michael Holland

Queensland coach Billy Slater says Newcastle’s struggles this season will not harm Kalyn Ponga’s chances of representing the Maroons in the 2022 State of Origin series.

The Knights are having a season to forget so far. They have slipped to seven defeats on the bounce and currently sit bottom of the NRL ladder. It has sparked suggestions that Slater could have second thoughts over selecting Ponga.

The star fullback has blown hot and cold this season. His form also wasn’t helped by the ongoing contract saga. But after penning a bumper new contract, Ponga and the Knights have yet to fire.

Ponga tipped to step up

Even so Slater is not concerned. The Maroons coach says he has seen enough of the 24-year-old and knows he will step up to the plate when he is needed. So barring injury it looks as though Ponga will get the nod for game one on 8th June.

“One thing that hasn’t been questioned is Kalyn’s effort and his willingness to put himself on the line and be involved in the game,” Slater told reporters.

“Sure his team’s not going well at the moment. He’s had a whole heap of changes in his key positions.

“Being the captain that he is, he’s stepping up and trying to play other people’s roles.It doesn’t concern me that the team’s not going overly well. I watch Kalyn as an individual and I see a fair desire there to be involved in the game and a want to compete. I know what Kalyn’s capable of.”

Slater is coaching Queensland for the first time as they look to bounce back. New South Wales ran out 2-1 winners in 2021. Slater could have one or two selection headaches considering the start to the season North Queensland have made. A number of Cowboys have caught the eye as they have jumped to third on the ladder.

Billy Slater impressed with Cowboys

The Broncos are on the up and Slater says that can only be a good thing also.

“Tommy Dearden is one young guy that’s really making some noise and playing tough, running the football and defending well,” Slater added.

“The whole system at the Cowboys at the moment, everyone’s doing their job and everyone’s playing the team way. The two backrowers stand out. (Heilum) Luki and (Jeremiah) Nanai. Reuben Cotter’s having a fantastic season. Kyle Feldt and Valentine Holmes are bouncing off the energy of the youth up there.

“It’s a good vibe up there at the Cowboys and it’s really important for Queensland that the Cowboys, the Broncos are playing some good football. “They’re on the right track the Queensland teams.”