Ponga ready for Origin now: Walters

Steve Zemek

Queensland coach Kevin Walters has revealed Newcastle sensation Kalyn Ponga has rocketed into State of Origin contention.

It's universally accepted it's a matter of when, not if, Ponga makes his Origin debut.

But at age 20, and with just 18 NRL first-grade games under his belt, it was thought he was maybe still a year off.

After all, he has only this year nailed down a starting spot following his big-money move to the Knights.

But Walters said on Sunday the elusive fullback had proved himself ready for the Origin cauldron right now following a string of game-winning performances.

"Before a ball was kicked, you would have thought he has the potential to play Origin down the track," Walters told Triple M.

"But from what he's shown the other night, I believe he's ready to play."

While Walters said Ponga was ready and raring to go, that doesn't mean the path has been cleared for him to receive a Maroon jersey in 2018.

Unless legendary No.1 Billy Slater goes down, there's no clear place for him in Walters' line-up.

He played three games on the wing for North Queensland in 2016-17.

But with Darius Boyd, Valentine Holmes and Corey Oates battling it out for the only position in the Queensland three-quarter line seemingly not under lock and key, it's hard to see Ponga breaking in there.

"It's just a matter of whether he gets the opportunity or not," Walters said.

"I saw him in our emerging camp at the start of the year and met with them individually.

"He was just very impressive - not just his knowledge about the game, but his general attitude to life away from football."