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State of Origin news 2024, Kalyn Ponga could save Queensland Maroons after Reece Walsh and Cameron Munster injuries

A week ago it seemed Newcastle superstar Kalyn Ponga would struggle to get back into Queensland‘s State of Origin team.

Now he looms as the saviour for coach Billy Slater, and could in fact be called on to play two different positions for the Maroons during this year’s series.

Ponga was “disappointed” last year when he was snubbed by Slater and lost his Origin jumper to Broncos whizkid Reece Walsh.

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He was offered it back when Walsh was injured before game three, but opted to decline and focus on helping the Knights to finals, which they achieved.

Now the 25-year-old is fit and firing and looms as a certainty to return to Slater’s squad once selection rolls around in late May.

Ponga could prove the missing piece to the puzzle as injuries threaten both Walsh and five-eighth Cameron Munster’s availability.

Munster hasn’t been seen this season as he battles to overcome a groin problem, while Walsh suffered a facial fracture on Thursday night and faces up to two months in recovery.

Speaking before Walsh’s injury, league legend Andrew Johns suggested Ponga could replace Munster at No.6 for Queensland.

Watch the 2024 NRL premiership live and free on Nine and 9Now.

“I think Kalyn would go to five-eighth,” Johns told Wide World of Sports’ Immortal Behaviour.

“If Munster is not there I think Kalyn plays five-eighth.”

The debate is whether Walsh and Ponga could squeeze into the same team if only one starting position was available.

Queensland great Darren Lockyer – who was a gun fullback then five-eighth during an illustrious career – isn’t a fan of the idea.

“I know Billy holds both of them in really high regard,” Lockyer told Wide World of Sport’s QLDER.

“There is not too many 80-minute hookers out there anymore, and I think you’ve got to carry a second hooker.

“If you carry a second hooker I don’t think you can carry that 14 (utility).

“Both of them are best at fullback – we did the Ponga exercise last year when he went to five-eighth… I’m not saying he can’t do it, but an out-and-out fullback sitting on the bench is going to put your middle under a lot of pressure.

“(Ponga has) had a taste of playing up front last year, and he played wing when he was at the Cowboys. He would have more experience as a utility.

“The only way you could make it work is (if) Ben Hunt was to come off and Harry Grant went on (at hooker), Ben Hunt then becomes a utility.”

Lockyer’s comments also came before Walsh was injured on Thursday night.

Slater is likely to pick his Maroons squad for game one following round 12.

The return dates of both Munster and Walsh have not been confirmed.

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