Ponga a star, but Origin? ‘Certainly not’
MAL Meninga finds it hard to see Knights sensation Kalyn Ponga forcing his way into Queensland's Origin team in 2018.
Ponga has dominated the early stages of the NRL season and currently leads the Dally M leaderboard on 14 votes, ahead of Andrew Fifita (13).
But Billy Slater's mortgage on the fullback position and the need to fill a bench position with either Michael Morgan or Ben Hunt will mean Ponga's Origin experience will likely be about learning, not playing, this year.
"You've got Billy Slater (so) where do you pick him?" the Kangaroos coach told the Macquarie Sports Radio Breakfast Show on Wednesday.
"I think he's obviously a prodigious talent and as they keep on saying he'll play for Queensland. He may play for Queensland throughout this series but certainly not for game one.
"If you look at it our halves are pretty strong. Benny Hunt, Munster and Michael Morgan, one of those three will probably sit on the bench.
"So yeah, bring him into the squad and give him a taste of how our great players prepare for games. I think it'll be an eye opener for him ... If someone gets injured he may get (an opportunity) this year.
"But if not - if Billy makes a decision to retire (later this year) - he's pretty much ready-made isn't he?"
Meninga believed Cameron Munster was a certain starter but wasn't sure if selectors would opt to partner him with Hunt or Morgan in the halves.
He also declared Darius Boyd would hold his position because of his experience and the combination he forms with Greg Inglis. "Darius has never let the Maroons jersey down," Meninga said.
Meninga wasn't afraid to talk up NSW's chances of reversing its fortunes in 2018, pointing to the Blues' array of young talent.
"I think NSW has got a fairly formidable side," he said. "They're over endowed with so many selection options. I think Tom Trbojevic and James Tedesco need to be in the side, both of them really.
"I picked Tommy in the World Cup squad last year and he made a real good fist of right centre, right wing. He can play both sides of the footy field.
"Latrell Mitchell has started to poke his head through. Such a fine array of young talent, you've got to bleed them at some stage."