Kalyn Ponga move smacked down amid Billy Slater's huge call on State of Origin team

Braith Anasta believes Queensland won't pick Kalyn Ponga in this year's State of Origin series.

NRL great Braith Anasta has shut down talks Kalyn Ponga and Reece Walsh may play in the same Maroons side declaring "it won't happen". On Tuesday Billy Slater said he was flirting with the idea of picking both star fullbacks for the upcoming State of Origin series that kicks off in Sydney on June 5.

Ponga has represented Queensland seven times – and was instrumental in their 2022 series win – but sat out of last year's series due to concussion issues. In his absence, Walsh starred at fullback in Game I and II before missing game three through suspension.

Ahead of the 2024 series Queensland selectors face an impossible choice at fullback, deciding on whether to keep faith in Broncos grand-final fullback Walsh, or revert to 2022 incumbent Ponga, whose 2023 NRL performances saw him win the Dally M. But Slater is tossing up picking both, stating "anything is possible" and said he was looking "outside the box" as the team hunts a third-straight Origin triumph.

Pictured Kalyn Ponga left and Billy Slater right
Braith Anasta has shut down suggestions Billy Slater may pick Kalyn Ponga and Reece Walsh in the same Maroons side declaring "it won't happen". Image: Getty

"I'm open to anything. I'm not against trying to evolve our game and think about it in different ways," the Maroons coach told AAP. "That is how I was as a player. It is about what suits your team. I am sure they would like to be teammates one day.

"Whether it can work, I am not too sure. I watch our players and the habits they have got in their game and try and build a game plan around our strengths so they can be at their best."

But Anasta told NRL 360 both won't be picked in the 17 and he believes Ponga will be the man to miss out. “They won’t do that (select both Walsh and Ponga). I don’t think Billy will do that.”

Braith Anasta believes Maroons can't drop Ben Hunt

The main reason Anasta believes it won't happen is due to the integral role Ben Hunt and Harry Grant have played in Queensland's last two series wins. If either Ponga or Walsh was to be named on the bench it would likely be in place of 34-year-old Origin stalwart Hunt.

Brent Read also agreed with Anasta, stating Slater won't pick one of the star fullbacks on the bench as a hooker rotation but suggested the one who isn't selected at No.1 could be used as a strike centre or even play on the wing. “I just don’t think they’ll go down that path because the Grant-Hunt combo has worked so well over the past couple of years," Read said.

"I’m not sure you can afford to just dispense with that. Kalyn will get a chance at some point this series. Could he come on and potentially play on the wing if someone gets injured? Maybe at centre? Why not?”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 06: Braith Anasta attends the GQ Australia Men Of The Year Awards in association with BOSS at Bondi Pavilion, Bondi Beach on December 06, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for GQ Australia)
Braith Anasta (pictured) believes Billy Slater won't pick Kalyn Ponga due to the integral role Ben Hunt and Harry Grant have played in Queensland's last two series wins.

Kalyn Ponga could return to the bench in a utility role similar to that of 2018

Ponga came off the bench in his Origin debut in 2018 as somewhat of a roving creator to great effect. Walsh also played as a utility on occasion when he first came into the NRL with the Warriors, when the fullback spot was held down by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in 2021.

But while the idea of Queensland’s livewire fullbacks alongside Cameron Munster is an exciting thought for Maroons fans, Anasta says there isn't any room in the side for Ponga and believes he won't be named unless there are injuries.


"It’s not just about having all the superstars on there. Queensland have won series after series without the superstars, or without as many as NSW. It’s about fitting them into the game plan and executing it the right way.

"Ben Hunt suits Origin because he’s not only skilful, he’s tough, he’s fit. He can play 9, 7, 6, 13. Kalyn is a great player and he’d be in every team around the world. Unfortunately, Walsh is a great player too and he’s playing in good form and Queensland pick and stick."