Maroons captain Daly Cherry-Evans wants to play Origin football with Kalyn Ponga for a few more years yet and predicts that the 21-year-old fullback will one day skipper Queensland if he continues his meteoric rise.
Ponga took control of the game in the second half of Origin I, setting up tries for Corey Oates and Dane Gagai in the 18-14 win over NSW and showcasing his poise his pressure.
It is that self-assurance and capacity to step up in the big moments that has Cherry-Evans wanting to be a part of Ponga's continued ascendancy.
"He gets a lot of credit and media attention and I don't want to put anymore on it, but the demeanour he has in the side and the respect he has gained through his leadership qualities and demanding certain things from the side … it's all there for him," Cherry-Evans said.
"I can't wait to be along for the ride for Kalyn Ponga. Hopefully I will play a lot of footy with him for the next couple of years. As someone so young you don't need to put pressure on them. They will naturally build and become leaders, but Kalyn is certainly trending in the right direction to be a future captain."
DCE: Ponga is a future leader
Great leaders are always searching for that extra edge and Ponga leaned on champion Maroons fullback Billy Slater for advice ahead of his Origin debut as a starting fullback.
"Billy said a few things and he just said it with confidence. He had confidence in me and that made me feel pretty good," Ponga said.
"I’ve watched his game a fair bit and I’ve taken a few things out of it in attack and defence.
"Last Origin camp [in 2018] I had a fair bit to do with him and I spent a fair bit of time with him this camp and tried to absorb everything that I could.
"You can always be better. You have never played your best game. There is always an opportunity to play your best game and as a spine, as a team and as a unit we’ve got to do that [in Perth in Origin II."
Ponga was out-played by opposite fullback James Tedesco in the first half but was the more dominant of the two in the second stanza at Suncorp Stadium. It is his own upward curve rather than out-pointing Tedesco that remains his focus.
"I am out there to do my job, not his. I am not out there to beat him. I am out there to do my job for the boys," Ponga said.
"In periods I did. I can obviously be a lot better and I’ll work on that."
Cherry-Evans insisted that the focus in Perth would be on improving across the board, including his own partnership with Cameron Munster in the halves.
"As good as we were to win the game, structurally there is so much improvement in us in attack," Cherry-Evans said.
"We will do our homework on what unfolded. They will be even more desperate now, so if we think the same thing will win us game two, we're in for a rude shock. We won't be that side. We won't rest on tonight. I'm looking forward to get into camp for game two, but we have some work to do.
"[In the halves] structurally we were quite poor in attack. What we did do is play footy. On the run we communicated and that's one thing we did well. Me and Cam speak well on the field. We have a good feel for each other. There's things me and Cam can tidy up, but it was a gritty win, our forward pack got us home and the icing on the cake was Gagai, Munster and Ponga."
Cherry-Evans led his side with aplomb with his kicking game on song in the second stanza when his team needed it most.
Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues
"Believing in myself was always the biggest thing. You don't get appointed captain to be someone else. It was important for me to be myself and back my ability and when I talk, say it with conviction," Cherry-Evans said.
"I got a lot of respect from my teammates this week and I'm really appreciative of the effort they put in.
"It was even brought up at half-time that we had to believe we could win the game … 8-0 [behind] in Origin is tough to come back from. It takes a lot of hard work and resilience.
"I wouldn't say I was nervous when they were on top. I knew we could fix it and it would make the game easier for us.
"We spoke about how well they were playing and in particular through the middle. I thought we addressed that and in the second half they weren't as dangerous, but when you are talking about guys like Tedesco and Cook, they are always hard to handle."