Brown on Ponga: ‘A week with Billy Slater will be the best week of his life’

The only advice nib Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown had for young prodigy Kalyn Ponga on his selection to State of Origin II was, 'back yourself'. 

The former St George Illawarra hooker was coy to send too much words of wisdom the 20-year-olds way, having not played Origin himself, but was adamant he needs to be confident in his own ability when wearing the maroon jersey. 

"He got picked because he is a talented young kid who has got a lot of belief in himself, and I'm sure Queensland will have some sort of plan to use him and use him well," said Brown. 


The Knights coach believes the best person that could help his young fullback at the elite level is no other than veteran fullback Billy Slater. 

"Unfortunately, I wasn't as good as Kalyn and didn't play Origin so if he wants Origin advice, he might need to see Billy Slater, might be a bit better," Brown laughed. 

"I think spending a week with Billy Slater will be the best week of his life and will help to grow his game, to be organising people. I don't think there's anyone better than Billy Slater to help him with that." 

Losing his star player to Origin might be a little nerve racking for Brown, but he couldn't be any happier for Ponga and his recent rep call-up. 

"It's great for Kalyn and his family, they took a real chance being the first player to join us when we were down the bottom of the ladder, so I feel happy for them," Brown added. 


"I know how much Kalyn's mum and dad have played a part in his career and from a Club point of view, it is huge to have a player that plays in such a key position who has made his way to the Queensland side so there's no negatives. 

"To be where we want to get to as a Club, and to be a team to win grand finals, you need State of Origin players." 

While there's been numerous questions on whether the youngster is ready for his debut, Brown believes he is. 

"I was very young when Laurie Daley and a lot of guys got put in to the Origin," Brown said. 

"In their first year I don't think they did so well, but Laurie went on to dominate the Origin with a number of players that debuted and it seems like yesterday when Mal Meninga was under pressure and brought young guys called Cameron Smith and Billy Slater. 

"If you're good enough, age is not a barrier. Kalyn has proven he is a player of immense potential, and I think he'll more than adequately do a good job for Queensland. 

"He can certainly make the players outside him look good and that is probably one of his greatest attributes, and that's the challenge for any young player going to Origin, is being able to do it not just at Club level but at elite level." 

Meanwhile Ponga is not the only player to be kicking goals on the representative stage with Slade Griffin and Herman Ese'ese jet setting to America for the Denver test, set to make their debut for New Zealand. 

"When Herman came in he was a rising player and playing for the Kiwis was something he targeted for the next stage of his career," commented Brown. 

"Slade has come from the Storm, has brought his great habits with him. 

"It's great for us to have a couple of blokes come to the Club and become internationals and we need those types of players if we want to have a successful Club." 

And while Brown admits travelling all the way to the US is not an ideal situation for any club, he couldn't be happier for the both of them to fulfil a childhood dream. 

"We're really happy for those two guys because they have never represented their country before," Brown said. 

"They're going to get to be with another coach, another group of players, some who have achieved a lot in the game, and they're going to get another life experience. 

"It's a dream for both of those boys playing for their home country and ringing their mum and dad I'm sure was a great thing for them. 

"Fingers crossed they fly back and they're in good shape." 

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