Knights get Pearce era underway on winning note
Kalyn Ponga can put himself in prime position to be a long-term Maroons fullback if he plays his cards right in the next three NRL seasons, insists Queensland's inaugural Origin fullback Colin Scott.
Scott said while Queensland selectors would stay loyal to Billy Slater and Darius Boyd initially, that the stars had aligned for the 19-year-old Newcastle Knights new signing to stake his claim for a representative future.
Scott knows all about succession plans because he was an integral part of Queensland's first transition in the number one jersey.
The former Broncos and Wynnum-Manly star played fullback for Queensland from 1980 until the first Origin sereies opener of 1986 before Gary Belcher took over for the next five seasons in the custodian's position.
Belcher had been an outstanding performer for Souths in Brisbane until the end of the 1985 season before moving to the Canberra Raiders.
When Scott's time was up, Belcher was ready to rock.
Scott said it was no coincidence Ponga had attended the recent Emerging Origin Camp and that the Maroons had identified a player of rare talent to monitor, develop and blood when the time was right.
"Ponga has youth on his side and all the credentials to be the next in line," Scott told NRL.com.
"We have to look to the future and he has all the skills. It is all at his feet, so it is up to him now over the next two or three years at Newcastle to make sure he is ready.
"Billy Slater is obviously the number one man, and Darius is still there, but we all have our time in Origin.
"In my day we had Joe Kilroy, Tony Currie and a few others waiting in the wings, but Gary Belcher proved himself for three or four years at Souths [in Brisbane] and then at Canberra.
"He came into fullback for Queensland when he was ready and I got a go on the wing.
"Queensland has always been loyal to its players, until your time comes."
Maroons assistant coach Josh Hannay said Ponga impressed in the emerging camp and had a golden opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Slater and Boyd.
"The champions of our game are still performing well into their mid-30s now, but KP could very well be the next in line down the track," he said.
"This is going to be his first year of consistent NRL footy and he will get a great opportunity to make the fullback his spot his own at Newcastle.
"He is a freakish kid but he has to be patient, as we all have to be.
"Kalyn has had a huge wrap on him for years but we can't expect him to be a world beater from day one."
Ponga had limited opportunities in the Cowboys' star studded backline where he played nine NRL games in the past two seasons, including an outstanding debut in the 2016 finals series on the wing against the Broncos.
That is set to change at the Knights where he is set to be given the number one jersey on a regular basis.
Ponga is a confident young man who likes to be challenged and Hannay, also the assistant coach at the Cowboys, said he would get his wish at the Knights.
"While we were disappointed to lose a player of his ability I think the year ahead is exciting for him," Hannay said.
"In the under 20s I think he got a little bit, I don't know if bored is the word, but I think he wanted to be challenged a lot more.
"He is going to get that challenge on a regular basis this year and I am excited to see what that brings out in him."