Smith: Why Maroons must pick Ponga

Scott Bailey
Kalyn Ponga was Newcastle's best but Melbourne won their NRL clash 28-10

Cameron Smith says Queensland has to pick Kalyn Ponga for next week's must-win State of Origin clash after getting a close look at him in Melbourne's 28-10 win over Newcastle.

And that was after watching him on a bad day.

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown admitted Ponga "wasn't very good" in the Knights loss, but he still scored a try and had a hand in the Knights' only other to go with his nine tackle busts and two linebreaks.

The 20-year-old is a chance to wear the Queensland No.1 jersey in Sydney next week if Billy Slater fails to prove his fitness by Wednesday, with the Maroons imposing a deadline on the champion fullback.

But even if Slater - who is back running - does play, Smith said his former coach needed to find a place for Ponga in the 17.

"I think he has to be there just given the situation for Queensland," Smith said.

"It's a must-win game - we all know that and Kevvie understands that - and you need someone who can create opportunities for the team and can win a game.

"Certainly Kalyn Ponga is someone who can do that."

Ponga's performance on Sunday summarised that of Newcastle.

He came out of the blocks hard and pushed three errant passes in blustery conditions, as his team succumbed to a 66 per cent completion rate.

But he also pulled off some magic.

He scored once from dummy-half and set up the Knights' other, his skip before the line drawing in defenders before Ken Sio crossed out wide.

"The ease that he creates opportunities for his outside men, it looks too easy," Smith said.

"Talking to our outside backs there after the game, when they think they have him and in a position to contain him, he just changes position really quickly and they're beaten."

Told of Smith's comments, Ponga said he was ready to play at fullback or anywhere required of him as a bench utility.

"Put me anywhere and I will play," he said.

"Honestly, I would love to play, I just want to play."

Asked whether selection had played on his mind ahead of the Melbourne game, Ponga said: "Not really, I never feel like I have to impress anyone.

"My mind is pretty chilled.

"I think my first 20 minutes of that game I was pushing passes a little bit.

"When I was running out of the shed I had in my mind to create, and I probably tried to create too much. I should have had a different word in my mind."

Meanwhile Melbourne's win capped off a triumphant day for the club that included the re-signing of coach Craig Bellamy for three years.

Flyer Josh Addo-Carr twice finished off length-of-the-field tries, while Cameron Munster also starred in his final hit out before Origin II.

After they led 14-6 at halftime, the Storm pulled away in the final 30 minutes to stay fifth on the ladder.