Kalyn Ponga caught in brutal moment in loss as NRL fans call out Reece Walsh truth

The Knights fullback has been hot and cold as Newcastle slumped to 0-2 on the NRL season.

State of Origin teams certainly aren't picked after two rounds of the season. But if they were, Reece Walsh would be a shoe-in to retain his Queensland fullback jumper ahead of Kalyn Ponga.

Ponga had an incredible series for the Maroons in 2022, but decided to sit out the 2023 series because he felt he owed it to the Knights to concentrate on club footy. Queensland coach Billy Slater handed Walsh his Origin debut as a result, and the 21-year-old was a phenomenon as the Maroons won back-to-back series.

Kalyn Ponga, pictured here as the Cowboys levelled the score against Newcastle.
Kalyn Ponga couldn't prevent the Cowboys from levelling the score against Newcastle. Image: Getty/Fox League

Ponga's decision to focus on the Knights proved a masterstroke, and the 25-year-old led Newcastle into the finals before winning the Dally M medal after an unreal second half of the season. Ponga has declared himself available for Origin selection in 2024, giving Slater a selection headache with two absolute guns to pick from.


But Ponga's form over the first two rounds has been rather underwhelming, while Walsh has been on fire for the Broncos. Walsh has scored three tries in the opening two games, and was dominant in the Broncos' win over the Rabbitohs on Thursday night.

Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga in State of Origin.
Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga are battling for the Queensland fullback spot. Image: Getty

Was Kalyn Ponga out of position for late Cowboys try?

In contrast, Ponga had a hot-and-cold game against the Cowboys on Saturday after a similar display against Canberra in the opening round. The Newcastle fullback was two line breaks and 349 running metres over the first two games, but has made a number of brutal errors as the Knights slumped to 0-2 on the season.

On Saturday he made a shocking gaffe when he dropped a regulation kick, and some thought he was caught out of position when the Cowboys levelled the score at 20-20 in the dying stages. Despite the Cowboys being 15 metres out, Ponga was defending in the line rather than at the back.

He was therefore no chance to prevent Jeremiah Nanai from scoring the match-levelling try after a deft kick through the line from Chad Townsend. Ponga might not have been able to prevent the try anyway, but he was nowhere to be seen as Nanai swooped on the loose ball.

Billy Slater might pick Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga

Despite the lacklustre start to the season, Ponga has shown he can turn it on and get hot at any stage. Discussing the Origin situation earlier this year, Slater revealed he's open to picking both Walsh and Ponga in the same team.

Ponga would be a dynamic bench weapon if picked in the No.14 jersey, but Ben Hunt has filled that role brilliantly over the last few seasons. "Everything's a possibility," Slater said in February. "(Ponga and Walsh) both contributed immensely to both the 2022 series and the 2023 series and they're both Queenslanders. I'm sure they'd love to be teammates one day as well.

"We've got 34 players here that have earned the right to be here. Seventeen players will get their name read out leading into that first game. Sure, there's competition, but they're teammates as well. They understand the selflessness that you need to have to be successful in this game."