In his first on-camera interview in State of Origin camp, Kalyn Ponga has detailed how he rose from his deathbed to a Maroons jersey in just three years.
The well-travelled 20-year-old who was born in Western Australia but grew up in Mount Isa, Mackay, Brisbane and Townsville - as well as New Zealand – told of a serious illness in his final year at high school.
Click on the embedded video above for the full interview.
"It was a bit weird...a bit of a strange one," Ponga said.
"I sort of had an infection in my brain – that's pretty much the most simple way to put it.
"I was out for ages; a few months there. I was just in bed every day, sleeping."
Ponga's father has previously described the condition as "life-threatening".
At that stage Ponga was completing his education at Anglican Church Grammar – commonly known as 'Churchie' – and both his studies and sports ambitions were put on hold.
However, livewire Kalyn maintains that he didn't dwell on the setback and maintained his belief he would scale the lofty ambitions he had in his heart.
"I'm not too sure on what the actual risks were, but in my head I was always going to play," he said defiantly.
A star in multiple sports as a child, Ponga was a junior golf champion, and excelled in soccer, touch football, rugby union and Australian rules football, as well as rugby league.
His parents ran a touch football club for several years.
Ponga was in camp for Game I of this year's Origin series without playing in Melbourne, and has been named in an 18-man squad for Game II, though coach Kevin Walters has intimated he will be in the final 17.
For a youngster who has already scaled great heights, he revealed he still taken aback by the opportunity to pull on a Maroons jersey.
"It's been nerve-wracking," Ponga said.
"As a kid you aspire to play the best standard of everything and I believe this is the best standard.
"To put that Maroons jersey on on Sunday will be a feeling that I don't think I've ever felt or will fear again."
Ponga also discussed what it would be like teaming up with Greg Inglis, describing him as a "fearful" player.