How Kalyn Ponga dropped a bombshell on Queensland manager Billy Slater in one of the toughest texts a football star could ever send
- Ponga suffered four blows to the head in 10 months
- Traveled to Canada for specialist scans
- Was cleared to play, but made a huge call to Origin
It was widely speculated that outgoing Queensland Maroons fullback Kalyn Ponga was dropped for the 2023 State of Origin series, but the Newcastle skipper has now made the shocking admission that he has pulled out.
The decision to stay with Ponga despite a series of horrors of concussions and head shots or choose Brisbane Broncos livewire Reece Walsh was one of the biggest decisions filed with Queensland manager Billy Slater .
However Ponga, who suffered his fourth blow to the head in 10 months in Newcastle’s NRL win over the Wests Tigers on March 12, revealed he had made the difficult decision to focus on the club instead. only on his condition this year.
Ask if he had made himself unavailable for selection this year, Ponga said: “Yes, it’s true that I told Billy that I have to focus on Newcastle at the moment.”
“I contacted him earlier in the week to let him know and wish him good luck,” he added.
“I love Queensland and the Maroons shirt, but I need to play more games and be on the pitch for Newcastle right now. It was a really tough decision to make, but I will fight to win back my place in the Queensland team next year.
Ponga has revealed he has pulled out of the 2023 State of Origin series to focus on his health and Newcastle
After four head shots in 10 months, Ponga was sent for another HIA in his return game for the Knights
Ponga missed five rounds of football for Newcastle before being given the nod from specialists in Canada
After his series of head shots, Ponga traveled to Canada to have his brain tested using technology not yet available in Australia.
He missed five NRL rounds before finally being given the green light to return by specialists.
There was a scary moment when Ponga returned, suffering another blow to the head in the opening minutes against the Sharks.
However, he passed his HIA and has now returned to his usual position at full-back after Newcastle gave up experimenting with his star talent in half-time.
Ponga will be hard pressed to reclaim their position, especially if Queensland go ahead and win the 2023 Origin Series.
Walsh had a blinder on his Adelaide debut, but Ponga said that was never in question.
“I watched the game last night and I was really happy for Queensland and really happy for Reece,” Ponga said on Thursday.
“He made a very good debut. I always knew he would do it.
Ponga celebrates winning the 2022 series after a Man of the Match performance in Game 3 propelled the Maroons to victory
Slater had complete faith in Walsh and helped the young Brisbane Broncos star realize his potential on the game’s biggest stage.
Walsh himself praised Slater for taking the extra time to pass on his knowledge and help the young Bronco get ready for the rigors of Origin.
“He’s the greatest fullback to play the game and has spent countless hours with me talking about positional play and where I can appear on the pitch,” Walsh said.
“There were little things about my positioning, where I use my energy, being smart on the pitch…all the little things.
“It was a very detailed rear. He’s a really thorough trainer. He is a very good person and cares about you. You don’t want to drop it.
Slater returned the compliments, with plenty of praise for the Broncos star.
“The young full-back has so much substance to his game outside of highlights,” said the Queensland coach.
“We all love to see Reece Walsh pull the trigger on a pass, his blistering speed or his involvement in the game…but he’s building a foundation for his game that will keep him going for a long period of time.
“That’s what I saw. That’s what I liked and that’s why he’s here.
“He’s a quality player and a good young man. He has a great future ahead of him.