July 15, 2024

Kalyn Ponga has emerged as a surprise contender to don the No.1 jersey for Queensland in the State of Origin game three decider as the Newcastle star makes his much-anticipated return from injury.

The 26-year-old has been sidelined since round seven after suffering a Lisfranc injury that required surgery, subsequently damaging his hopes of returning to the Origin arena.

Ponga withdrew himself from selection in 2023 as a precaution following a number of concussions.

Reece Walsh is the incumbent Queensland fullback and was kept quiet in NSW’s game two win.

Queensland great Sam Thaiday said Maroons selectors would be watching Ponga’s return closely.

“We’ve got to see how he gets out there and plays,” Thaiday said on Nine’s Today.

“It’s fantastic to see him back on the field. He had a long-term injury with his foot. He’s spent a long time out of the game. He’s been working very hard to get back, it’s a little bit sooner than people thought.

“He’s got to be in the conversation. I’m sure Billy (Slater) has thought about making a phone call to KP but we’ve just got to let him get through the weekend first.”Every North Queensland Cowboys fixture revealed as NRL unveils 2024 draw |  Daily Telegraph

Slater will make at least one change to his starting side after Melbourne winger Xavier Coates was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Maroons hooker Harry Grant remains “in doubt” for selection in game three as he is rested for the second week in a row by Craig Bellamy after an ugly collision with a Queensland teammate.

However, Phil Gould revealed the star is also suffering from a sternum injury.

Meanwhile, Titans star David Fifita has also entered the conversation to return in the Maroons jersey after being overlooked for the first two games.

Jadyn Su’A and Jeremiah Nanai were the starting backrowers in the first two matches.

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