Dumped Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga is facing the astonishing prospect of never again pulling on the Maroons’ No.1 jumper despite being crowned man of the match in his latest State of Origin outing.
The Broncos young gun turned in a sparkling performance on his Origin debut on Wednesday night, handling the NSW kicking tremendously well and setting up a Selwyn Cobbo try with a quick-thinking cut-out ball.
The 20-year-old repaid the faith shown by Queensland coach Billy Slater as the Maroons trumped the Blues 26-18 at Adelaide Oval.
“Reece Walsh, I’ve been saying for years, ever since I first met the young man and watched him play as a youngster, is a superstar,” Gould said on Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles with Gus podcast.
“I was not surprised he was selected for this team, and no one’s ever going to get that No.1 jersey back while ever he’s fit and well. He’s a phenomenon.”
Mat Thompson, the host of the Six Tackles with Gus podcast, asked Gould to repeat his remarkable comments.
“I said no one will get that Queensland jersey while ever he’s fit and well,” Gould said.
“It’ll be his forever as long as he can stand up and do it. Reece Walsh is now the Queensland fullback for the next decade.”
When pressed on Ponga, who scored a solo try to steal victory for the Maroons in the 2022 decider, Gould was blunt.
“Well, as they say, never have a day off work,” he said.
Gould’s comments followed the revelation that, after copping the axe for the Origin opener, Ponga messaged Slater to make himself unavailable for selection for the remainder of the series.
“Yes, it is true I have told Billy that I need to focus on Newcastle at the moment,” Ponga confirmed on Thursday.
“I reached out to him earlier in the week to let him know and wish him luck.
“I love Queensland and the Maroons jersey but I need to play more games and be on the field for Newcastle at the moment.
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“It was a really difficult decision to make, but I will fight to win back my place in the Queensland side next year.”
Slater has admitted that Ponga’s concussion history was a factor in the Knights co-captain being cut from the Maroons side.
After suffering his fourth concussion in 10 months as the Knights met Wests Tigers in round two, Ponga flew to Vancouver for advanced neurological testing.
The testing revealed no serious signs, but Slater decided he could not afford selecting someone so vulnerable to head knocks.
Addo-Carr late hit on Walsh sparks melee
Gould believes Ponga should have been selected as an interchange player.
“I was surprised he wasn’t picked on the bench for this one, because he covers everywhere, he can do all sorts of things for them,” Gould said.
“But Reece Walsh is a superstar, mate. He is an absolute superstar.
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“I’m not saying Kalyn isn’t; we’ve seen what Kalyn’s done.
“But you’re not going to get this fullback position off Reece Walsh now.”
The Blues must win at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on June 21 to keep the series alive.
The shield is in the Maroons’ keeping after they won the 2022 series 2-1.
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