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Origin Flashback: KP's scintillating debut

68th minute. Game II. 2018.

82,233 people inside Stadium Australia and millions watching around the world collectively hold their breath as Kalyn Ponga cuts open the NSW Blues defence.

"Here he goes," cries Paul Vautin in commentary.

Time stood still as the man with the maroon headgear streaked away destined to score and win the game for Queensland.

Going back three weeks prior, Kalyn Ponga received the call of a lifetime.

An injury to Maroons legend, Billy Slater, prompted a re-shuffle in the Queensland line-up for Game II and the Newcastle Knight answered the call to join the Maroons camp.

Kalyn and Anthony Milford joined the squad to fill a position on the bench with Michael Morgan promoted to the vacancy at fullback.

Milford got the nod as the Blues took the opening game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Fresh off his Origin camp experience, Ponga continued to make waves in the red and blue jersey.

A growing consensus called for Kalyn to make his debut in Game II with Morgan suffering a season-ending injury.

Maroons legend Cameron Smith labelled Kalyn 'more than ready' after coming up against the fullback the week before.

Queensland Coach, Kevin Walters, obliged and named Ponga on the bench for the massive second instalment of the series.

After only 24 games in the NRL, 'KP' became the most inexperienced player to debutise for the Maroons since Brent Tate in 2002.

The then 20-year-old fulfilled a life-long dream after being handed his Queensland jersey and deputised as Maroon No.197.


And with the Maroons needing to win to keep the series alive, the stakes couldn't be any higher.

After all the build-up and hype, the match begun at Stadium Australia with the Maroons starting fast.

Queensland scored two early tries to take a 10-0 lead.

Waiting nervously on the bench, Ponga kept warm by running up and down the sideline in anticipation.

The Blues struck back through Josh Addo-Carr before Kalyn's moment arrives.

Walters made an early change and introduced Ponga at the 28th minute mark.

With the match played at a high-pace, Kalyn is thrusted into the action to play an unfamiliar role in the middle of the park.

NSW wrestle back the momentum and take the lead via a Boyd Cordner penalty-try on the stroke of half-time.

Latrell Mitchell puts the Blues further ahead with a try early in the second half.

The Maroons continue to 'never say die' and hit back through Will Chambers with 20 minutes to play to bring the margin to within four.

With the side needing a spark, Ponga doesn't shy away from getting his hands on the football.

"Here he goes," cries Paul Vautin in commentary.

With 13 minutes remaining and the two teams going blow-for-blow, Ponga springs into life.

He bursts through a tiny gap and races into the back field.

With the line in sight, Ponga looks certain to score, however, a James Tedesco and Addo-Carr tackle brings Kalyn down just short of the line.

A titanic moment in the midst of the game, the Blues hold on for dear life.

Continuing to hold their line, NSW defend themselves to victory to secure a famous series win and their first since 2014.

Albeit on the wrong end of the scoreline, Kalyn is heralded by many for his incredibly tough debut performance.

Ponga made an incredible 29 tackles, one line-break and ran for 108 metres from his 10 runs with the football.

Knights and Origin legend, Andrew Johns, described Kalyn's showing as 'one of the greatest Origin debuts in history'.

Astonishing given his level of experience, it's fair to say Ponga had arrived on the biggest stage.