Maroons great calls for Ponga to be picked
QUEENSLAND selector Darren Lockyer has tempered calls for Kalyn Ponga's inclusion in the Maroons State of Origin squad after Wally Lewis declared it was time to pick him.
Ponga's potential selection has become one of the biggest talking points heading into the second clash in Sydney, as the Maroons look to keep the series and their dominance alive.
Maroons coach Kevin Walters made seven changes ahead of game two last year after they were heavily beaten in the series opener, and changes are again forecast in the search for Maroons points.
Ponga's hopes could largely hinge of the fitness of Billy Slater.
The Melbourne fullback admitted on Sunday he was still only "hoping" he would overcome a hamstring strain for the June 24 clash.
If Slater does play, it'd likely mean Ponga would need to leapfrog both Anthony Milford and Michael Morgan into the 17 and onto the bench, an option Lockyer doesn't believe is an answer.
"We all know he is going to play at some point, maybe this series," Lockyer told the Nine Network on Sunday.
"It's difficult. If Billy plays you expect him to play 80 minutes. Where do you put him in the team if he comes off the bench?
"We used Milford game one. It's difficult to find a player who doesn't play in the front line.
"It's going to happen. I just don't know game two is the one."
Lockyer's comments come after Lewis said Ponga had to be among the changes for the Sydney match.
He'd been called in as a reserve for the opener but was overlooked following Slater's injury in Melbourne.
The 20-year-old Newcastle whiz kid leads the NRL for tackle busts (75) and linebreak assists (17) and has set up 12 tries and scored four of his own in his first full year in the NRL.
"This kid has something special about him," Lewis said.
"There's always been that line used, it mightn't be a good time to select him, he's not old enough for State of Origin football.
"But as Arthur Beetson would say if you're good enough then you are old enough.
"The ability this man has displayed in his NRL appearances so far this season have been sensational.
Lewis also called for Matt Scott to be recalled into the Maroons' forward pack, highlighting the limited attacking numbers for a number of the Queensland big men in the series-opening loss.
Tim Glasby also remains an option, with Lockyer siding with Walters in backing the Melbourne forward as a potential plug for the Maroons' defence.
"Glasby, he's another one," Lockyer said.
"We need to find some men who play long minutes in the middle that limit the chances that (Blues hooker) Damien Cook gets."