Star’s withdrawal sends scare through Maroons camp
ONE Queensland forward is set to be chopped from the team for the State of Origin decider but Kalyn Ponga is also no guarantee after withdrawing from the Knights' clash against the Broncos.
The Maroons received a scare after Ponga was a shock game-day withdrawal with the minor calf ailment that he aggravated in Queensland's 38-6 loss to NSW in Origin II last Sunday night.
Ponga will have scans on Sunday to determine whether he will be available for selection for the Queensland team, which will be named Monday ahead of Origin III on Wednesday week at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.
The prospect of losing the fullback sensation would be a disaster for the Maroons, but Ponga moved to allay concerns he could miss the Origin decider.
"I don't think I'm in doubt, not at all," Ponga told Fox Sports before the Broncos-Knights game at McDonald Jones Stadium.
"I think I will be sweet. I just pulled up sore after the game (Origin II).
"We were monitoring it all week - even (Friday) night I went to bed thinking I was playing.
"Then I had it looked at this morning and it wasn't as good as I hoped it to be.
"I should be sweet, but I'll get the scans (Sunday)."
Queensland coach Kevin Walters, in commentary for Fox Sports, scoffed at suggestions Ponga was in serious doubt for the decider.
"Get the ice on it, Kalyn," Walters said.
"Look, it won't affect us. He's no in doubt, it's more precautionary. He finished game two, so the Knights are handling it the right way."
While Ponga expects to be on deck, teammate Jarrod Wallace is fighting to save his Origin career, with the Titans prop set to be axed following the Maroons' massacre in Perth.
The Sunday Mail understands Wallace will be the first casualty, with the Gold Coast bookend to make way for Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue, who missed game two with the nasty knee gash he suffered in the series' opener.
Storm prop Christian Welch, 18th man in Origin II, is being considered for his Queensland debut at the expense of Tim Glasby, while the Maroons' hierarchy must decide whether to risk Dylan Napa after he struggled in Perth with a broken wrist.
The one certainty is Wallace is in the firing line.
While he tried to make an impact off the bench, the Maroons' hierarchy were not impressed with the late shot on James Maloney that gave away a penalty at a crucial stage, allowing NSW to extend their lead to 22-6 in the 50th minute.
The Maroons are unlikely to make wholesale changes unless there is an injury crisis this weekend in round 15 of the NRL, but selectors believe the forward pack needs adjustment after they were mauled in midfield.
Dragons prop Korbin Sims is a possible debutant bolter with coach Walters believing he can bring aggression and energy to the Maroons pack.
"After a poor performance changes are always going to be discussed," Maroons selector Darren Lockyer said.
"Joe (Ofahengaue) was very good in game one and he would have been picked for Game Two if he wasn't injured, so he will be back in the team if he's fit.
"Welch is a chance, too. He was close for game two and he was good again for the Storm on Friday night (against the Roosters)."
LIKELY TEAM: Kalyn Ponga, Corey Oates, Michael Morgan, Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans (c), Dylan Napa, Ben Hunt, Josh Papalii, Felise Kaufusi, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire. Bench: Moses Mbye, Joe Ofahengaue, David Fifita, Tim Glasby/Christian Welch.