Newcastle prop Josh King hopes Kalyn Ponga's State of Origin form rubs off on the rest of the Knights when they resume their Telstra Premiership campaign against the Bulldogs on Saturday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Making his debut for the Maroons, Ponga came off the bench 27 minutes into the first half and was one of Queensland's best players in the 18-14 loss to the Blues. His highlight was a 30-metre dash up-field in the 69th minute after he split the NSW line with ease and threatened to set up a potential match-winning try.
While King witnesses Ponga's talent each week at the back for Newcastle, he enjoyed seeing the 20-year-old perform in a different role for Queesland.
"Obviously it was good to see him get out there, and he killed it," King said.
"Especially playing in the middle third of the field, where he doesn't usually play. So [it was good to see him] go out there and have an impact.
"We have been focusing on our defence and wrestle and I think it showed last night that Kalyn is a professional player, and he did what he needed to do out there.
"At training is the only time that I've ran at him, and he is always solid in defence - all the boys say the same."
King admitted that the week off could not have come at a better time for many of the Newcastle players.
Not only are the Knights trying to fight their way out of a mid-year form slump which yielded one win in seven games, several players are battling niggling injuries.
"Coming off a week off, everyone was a bit battered and bruised after 14-15 weeks of footy," King said.
"It's nothing major, just niggles and sore spots that you get from playing footy week in week out, they just get hit the next week and it's the same thing. So to give it a week off and let the body recover really helps.
"Everyone's come back ready and raring to go. There was a lot of energy [at Monday's training session], it was really good, with a lot of enthusiasm."
While the Bulldogs themselves are struggling lately, in 15th position on the ladder with just three wins, King says the Knights cannot afford to take them lightly. He is expecting a tough forward battle against the likes of Aaron Woods and David Klemmer.
"It will be a great challenge through the middle," King said.
"I am sure they will give us a handful in defence and we have been working hard on that of late, on our contact and wrestle. So it will be a good test of where we are at."
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