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Why QLD must pick Ponga in Origin II

Former Queensland coach Paul Vautin has declared Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga is a selection must for the second game of the 2018 Holden State of Origin series.

Called into Maroons camp as cover after Billy Slater was scratched due to a hamstring injury, the fullback warmed up at the MCG with the team ahead of the series opener but missed the 17.

Vautin, who coached the Maroons between 1995-97, insists coach Kevin Walters needs to call-up Ponga.

"Ponga is a must," Vautin declared on Channel Nine following the series opener.

"The things that I see him do playing club football (is) just amazing.

"He is incredible."


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Slater is expected to be available for Game II at ANZ Stadium on Sunday June 24 but with the series on the line, Walters admits Ponga will come into consideration for selection.

Michael Morgan filled the void in Slater's absence, while Anthony Milford joined the bench but Walters wouldn't confirm the young Knight is a certainty to play in Sydney.

"I think he's ready," Walters said after Wednesday night's 22-12 loss.

"It's a matter of what happens in the next couple of weeks.

"We're hoping to get Billy back.

"We'd expect him (ponga) to play some sort of role in Origin, whether it's game two or game three or even into 2019."

Former New South Wales coach Phil Gould believes Ponga is the x-factor player the Maroons need.

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While the nib Newcastle Knight is a live-wire who can create points at will, finding a place for him could leave Walters with a tough call to make on Slater.

"I've been saying all the way leading into the Origin - Billy Slater is by far and away the best fullback I have ever in my life," Gould started on the Channel Nine post-Origin show.

"(But) This kid is going better than him at the moment.

"That's a tough call on a legend like Billy, playing in his last series and all that, but on the score of creativity. You think Queensland (Wednesday night), one try from an intercept (and) one try from a grubber kick into the corner, they're looking for something."