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Slater discloses that Maroons elite fullbacks are in contention to play together

2023 State of Origin - QLD v NSW: Game 2

Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga, both superstar fullbacks in the game, remain potential options in the Queensland Maroons team that coach Billy Slater is set to announce for the State of Origin series opener.

Slater has assured the media that he is open to all possibilities, emphasising that it’s still early in the process and prefers not to rush his decision at this stage.

“I’m open to anything. I’m not against trying to evolve our game and think about it in different ways,” Slater told the AAP.

“I watch our players and the habits they have got in their game and try to build a game plan around our strengths so they can be at their best.”

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 21: Reece Walsh of the Maroons makes a break during game two of the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on June 21, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

In 2022, Newcastle Knights star Kalyn Ponga played a pivotal role in the Maroons’ series victory, showcasing his best performance for the state with seven Origin appearances under his belt.

During 2023, he faced several concussions, and upon his recovery, he unselfishly opted to focus on his career in his club football side. Following that, he proceeded to guide the Knights into the NRL finals and earn the 2023 Dally M Medal.

With Ponga out, Broncos fullback Walsh showcased his exciting talent in two victorious appearances for the Maroons in 2023, excelling in the fullback position before facing a suspension for game three.

Depending on their fitness, one of the two will don the No.1 jersey for the Origin opener in Sydney on June 5, while the other might occupy a different role within the squad.

“I think anything is possible”, Slater said when asked if Walsh could play another position, such as wing for the Maroons.

“I don’t build the team now. It is the players’ role to build habits in their game and my role to watch them now.

“In 40-odd days we accumulate all the actions they have built into their game and work it out.”

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 05: Kalyn Ponga of the Maroons passes during game one of the 2019 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on June 05, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Slater has been impressed by not only the X-factor ball skills of both players but also their personal playing styles.

As a top-tier legend for Melbourne, Queensland, and Australia, the Maroons mentor placed equal importance on his team’s defensive and organisational aspects alongside the attacking angle. Slater looks for the same essence in his players.

“Their movements off the football are really impressive. Their defensive movements at the back are really good,” Slater said.

“Both of them are putting themselves in positions to be involved in the game. That’s something they have built in their game and they have grown in that area.”

Even during Ponga’s absence last year, Slater remains confident that his dedication to the Maroons is consistent.

“Sometimes circumstances out of your control come up … but the Queenslander in Kalyn I have never questioned,” Slater said.

Source:: ZeroTackle

    

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