Kalyn Ponga's confession about Reece Walsh as Billy Slater hatches plan for State of Origin 3

Ponga and Walsh are poised to wreak havoc on the Blues in Game 3.

Recalled Maroons star Kalyn Ponga says he's been dreaming of linking up with Reece Walsh at State of Origin level, with the dynamic duo poised to wreak havoc on the Blues in the series decider. Ponga and Walsh will be Maroons teammates for the first time on July 17 at Suncorp Stadium, with the latter retaining his No.1 jersey and the Newcastle superstar set to be injected off the bench, having made a successful return from a foot injury against Canberra in the NRL on Sunday.

Ponga was replaced by Walsh as Maroons fullback last year and the Broncos star has retained the No.1 jersey in 2024. But the inclusion of Ponga gives the Maroons a scary new dimension in attack, with the reigning Dally M Medallist terrorising the Blues the last time he played for Queensland in 2022 - a man of the match effort in the series decider.

Pictured left to right is Kalyn Ponga and Reece Walsh.
Kalyn Ponga and Reece Walsh are set to wreak havoc on NSW in the State of Origin decider after being named to play together with the Maroons for the first time. Pic: Getty

The extraordinary display from Ponga included one try, 15 tackle busts, two line breaks and a whopping 247 run metres. And the Knights skipper says he's relishing the chance to represent his state again and play alongside Walsh, as the Maroons look to win a third straight Origin series.

“Everyone loves watching him (Walsh) I guess. His speed, his elusiveness, how exciting he is, everything,” Ponga said about his Maroons teammate. “I’ve been thinking about it (playing alongside Walsh) for a little while. I’ve got visions of him going down the sidelines and passing it back inside to me."

Ponga says he's yet to speak to Maroons coach Billy Slater about his exact role when he comes off the bench for Queensland, despite both men providing some hints. Ponga could be used in the middle for Queensland like he was so effectively during an incredible debut Origin series in 2018. He can also cover just about every position in the backline in the event one or more teammates go down with injury in the decider.

The Newcastle skipper looked electric against the Raiders on Sunday in his first game since suffering a Lisfranc injury in round seven. And Ponga says he can't wait to start working on combinations with Walsh in Maroons camp after admitting his role will likely focus on helping to unleash Walsh's attacking potential. “I guess my job when I come on, we still haven’t really worked that out, but I guess it’s to give him the footy and open it up...

“I haven’t really spoken to Billy about that yet – we’ll work that out and I’ll go into the game clear and knowing what my role is,” he said. Back then (in 2018) I was just a kid to be honest and Kevvie didn’t really give me too much and just said ‘go out there and play’ and no doubt it will be pretty similar messaging (from Slater)."

Kalyn Ponga was electric for the Knights against Canberra in what was his first game since suffering a Lisfranc injury in round 7. Pic: Getty
Kalyn Ponga was electric for the Knights against Canberra in what was his first game since suffering a Lisfranc injury in round 7. Pic: Getty

Maroons coach Slater warned that it's crucial for his side to get off to a better start than Game 2, where they were blown off the park in a 34-0 opening half onslaught. And the Queensland mentor has hinted at how he intends to use Ponga and Walsh together in attack for the Maroons, with both offering blistering pace, footwork and creativity in what looms as nightmare for the Blues to try and defend. Slater all but confirmed Ponga's assumption that both stars will be given free rein to play their natural games.

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

Ponga's recall is also massive for the Maroons in the sense that he knows what it takes to win an Origin decider when the stakes are at their highest. “I’ve played in one (decider) before and I know exactly what to expect and what’s going to be out there,” Ponga said. “It’s an exciting week and will be an exciting game and you could argue one of the best games of the year. I’m excited. I know what this environment is like and to play for this team and for this state."