Ponga shows AJ is ready for NRL: Walker
Each week former Queensland State of Origin strike weapon Chris Walker writes exclusively for QRL.com.au.
Watching Kalyn Ponga through the opening rounds of the 2018 NRL season has me thinking the Gold Coast Titans should roll the dice on AJ Brimson sooner rather than later.
Ponga is almost exactly six months older than Brimson, but has been in the NRL for 18 months already.
I get that Brimson is only young and he doesn't turn 20 until September, but I'm a firm believer that age doesn't necessarily matter when the talent and maturity is already there.
Nobody has been more dangerous for Tweed Heads through the first eight rounds of the Intrust Super Cup.
Whether playing five-eighth or fullback, Brimson has looked at home in either role and not been overawed at all by the more experienced heads trying to chase him down.
Last year Brimson was named NYC five-eighth of the year in a team that included Ponga at fullback.
I'd throw a spanner in the works and introduce Brimson to the NRL at wing, or possibly in the number 14 role and let him fill in anywhere in the backline, as well as hooker.
I still feel Kane Elgey can be the Titans' answer at five-eighth and hope he gained some confidence out of his display against Mackay.
To me, Bryce Cartwright is not the player to give them direction there and his greatest impact is when he comes off the bench and engages the defensive line first before thinking about passing.
I'm not for a second bagging Carty as I think he is a great talent with one of the best offloads in the game – but I do think having him at pivot is simply the wrong role.
I'd also like to reaffirm that I believe Garth Brennan is the coach for the job long-term and I've got faith he'll lead the club to where it needs to be.
At the moment he's exploring his options with the talent available.
Anyhow, I think Brimson deserves to be there, but the team also needs the stability of Michael Gordon at fullback and Kane Elgey at five-eighth, so that's why I'm talking about blooding Brimson through other avenues.
I've been told Garth doesn't want to throw AJ into the mix while the Titans' form is fluctuating, but I don't necessarily see that as an impediment.
Yes, young blokes love nothing more than winning, but it won't destroy his confidence if he gets picked and they lose a few games.
He'll be cock-a-hoop just to have made the grade.
The flipside to thinking of all the negatives about debuting Brimson is that his spark and enthusiasm could become infectious and spread through the team.
A teenager coming into the NRL should never feel in the position where he is accountable for a loss.
If the Titans can get their backline right, they'll be able to capitalise on the platform being paved up front by State of Origin frontrunners Jarrod Wallace and Jai Arrow.
Hands down, Arrow would be in my Origin team for Game I.
The workrate and strength of the man are unbelievable. I've heard that every time he steps in the gym to shift some tin, he gives 100 per cent to everything.
He's doing the preparation and taking a confidence on to the field that nobody goes harder than him.
Wallace has continued to be a leader of men and has really bloomed in his time on the coast.
Together they are overshadowing another forward who has the potential to make a big impact in Origin – albeit for the wrong team.
Ryan James is one Blue that bothers me and I think most Queenslanders hold a fear that one day it will all come together for the big angry fella.
Loyal followers of the Intrust Super Cup will remember the damage James inflicted for Tweed in years gone by, and cross their fingers he will never do that to the Maroons.
Let's hope he doesn't grow his hair back or those mystical powers may return!