He’s the incumbent, but there’s no guarantee.
Despite modelling the Maroons brand new jersey for 2020 just last week, Kalyn Ponga is facing stiff competition for his spot in the side this season.
While nobody is suggesting Ponga won’t be in the Queensland side in some capacity come June 3, the signing of Valentine Holmes to North Queensland means the fight is well and truly on for the fullback spot.
Luckily for the man known as ‘KP’, he has an important backer in Gary Belcher, the man who wore the No.1 jersey on 16 occasions for the Maroons.
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“It is so hard to predict how it is going to pan out before a ball has even been kicked this season. But I guess there are a few things working in Ponga’s favour,” Belcher told fogs.com.au.
“The first is that he is the incumbent, and Queensland always stick by the players who have done the job for them in the past.
“Secondly is the fact that he probably has that better passing game in his arsenal because of the time he has spent in the halves, whereas Val has really played most of his footy on the wing.
“That play-making role is such an important part of being a modern fullback, and Kalyn is probably at this stage a bit stronger in that regard.”
Despite giving Ponga the upper hand, Belcher admitted he’s looking forward to seeing the duo duke it out over the first half of the season.
“I am just really excited to see them both in action and try to outdo each other in the race to Origin selection,” Belcher said.
“You’ve got two guys at the peak of their powers, both brilliant attacking players, and whoever gets the job is going to have to be playing very, very well.
“In a different time and place, you would also have Cameron Munster in the mix for the fullback job as well – he’s said before that fullback is his preferred position – so we really are in pretty good shape for fullbacks at the moment.”
The final make-up of the Queensland side won’t be known until the squads are announced in late May, however Belcher was willing to speculate on where the duo will land.
With the current trend being set by NSW of slotting Manly fullback Tom Trobojevic into the centres, Belcher expects Queensland to follow suit with their two world-class No.1s.
“The final thing is what Kevvie (QLD Coach Kevin Walters) plans to do with the outside backs,” he said.
“We will obviously be short of numbers for centres again this year, so which direction Kevvie goes there will play a big part in what the team looks like.
“Valentine, or even Kalyn for that matter, might find themselves in the centres or, depending on where they play Dane Gagai, Valentine might be Queensland’s best option on the wing.”