Maroons to unleash Slater and Ponga
QUEENSLAND will hit the Blues with a one-two punch in Origin II, devising a plan to unleash young gun Kalyn Ponga as an offensive support act for champion fullback Billy Slater.
The Maroons are set to deploy a "two fullback" strategy, with the duo to be stationed on opposite sides to keep the Blues guessing.
It will be Ponga's chance to impress coach Kevin Walters in an audition to inherit Slater's No.1 jersey next year.
The selection of Ponga on the bench has been pilloried in some quarters, with critics questioning how the 20-year-old attacking whiz can be used effectively as Queensland fight to save the series at ANZ Stadium.
But the Maroons believe they have a formula to extract the best out of Ponga, and it involves using the Knights ace as a roaming attacking foil for Slater, Queensland's greatest Origin fullback.
Queensland selector and former skipper Darren Lockyer dismissed concerns Ponga is wasted on the bench, saying the Maroons have a precise tactical blueprint that has worked in the past.
"There is merit in using Kalyn the same way with a fullback on both sides.
"With Billy at fullback, NSW will try and nullify his impact, but if you have Kalyn on the other side of the ruck, it will free up some space for Billy and keep the Blues guessing.
"Even though Kalyn faces the prospect of defending on an edge, it doesn't mean he can't do what he does best in attack, which is getting into a three-on-two situation.
"There is potential for him to play a fullback role even if Billy is still on the field."
Walters said Ponga is a leading contender for that role, with the Newcastle sensation viewed as a long-term member of the Queensland team.
"He's an obvious choice," Walters said.
"We're only looking forward to Game Two in Sydney, but you've also got to have a bit of an eye on future planning and he's going to be a part of what Queensland does down the track, certainly."
Ponga himself said he would love to fill Slater's shoes in the future, but making his Queensland debut had also opened his eyes to how much more he had to learn before he could take on that role.
"Coming into camp and watching Billy and how he operates, it really hit home that I've got so much to learn, which is exciting," he said.
"Now that I've seen the way he operates, I definitely know there's a lot more hard work than I thought was involved. To see the standard he is at, it's a whole new level.
"There's a reason he's been the best in the game for however many years. Obviously it would be awesome (to be the Queensland fullback) but I definitely know there's a lot of work and nothing is guaranteed in life."