Kalyn Ponga says he has “a few boxes to tick” to take his place at fullback for the Maroons in Origin 1 in Townsville and has revealed the extra incentive driving his quest to recover from a nagging groin injury.
The 23-year-old has not played since Newcastle’s round nine win over the Raiders and is the Maroons star in the most doubt for the State of Origin series opener.
Harry Grant (hamstring), Christian Welch (knee) and AJ Brimson (knee) are on track to play and Cameron Munster (foot) is firming by the hour as a starter.
“I am tracking well. I have a few boxes to tick throughout this week and I am in the best environment to give me an opportunity to do that,” Ponga told NCA Newswire when asked of his chances.
“There is a challenge ahead of me but I am excited to be in camp.
“I have never had a groin injury or a bad soft issue injury. I feel as though I am going well at the moment and if I keep tracking the way I am I should know whether I’ll be right by Thursday or Friday. I’ll make a call then.”
Maroons coach Paul Green said earlier that Ponga had “done all his rehab and training so far at the Knights”, before conceding he was “in some doubt”.
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Ponga debuted for the Maroons in Game Two of 2018 but injury has reduced his Maroons participation to just three Origin games. He missed last year’s series with a shoulder injury and after spending three years in Townsville with the Cowboys has added incentive to make a full recovery.
“I was excited and happy to watch the boys win it last year but I also missed it. I definitely want to put on that jersey again,” he said.
“It is in Townsville and that is going to be an amazing atmosphere up there. I just know that they are going to love it so hopefully I can make it.
“North Queensland is very rich in the blood of the Maroons. The whole stadium will be packed with 25,000-plus and they will be queuing up to get in. I lived there for three years so I know.
“It does give me more incentive to be right, just going up there.
“The feeling of running out in this jersey, for me, is unmatched. It is just different. If they were playing it in someone’s backyard I’d be just as keen.”
The Maroons new-look spine that includes Munster, captain Daly Cherry-Evans and Grant also has Ponga salivating at the prospect of recovering in time.
“I haven’t played with Harry before so that is exciting in itself. If I look at all three of them and what they have been doing at club level and they are all freaks,” Ponga said.
“I have great respect for Cherry as a captain and leader and it is great being in camp with him. This is a spine that I really want to work with and firstly we can build that combination by laughing and having a coffee off the field. That is what this camp provides you with.
“We have ten days to get around each other. I can’t wait to play with them.”
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