Following a selfless decision by 2022 heroine Kalyn Ponga, Reece Walsh is expected to wear Queensland’s No. 1 sweater for the remainder of this year’s State of Origin campaign.
Ponga was the Maroons acting full-back early in the series, but fears of a concussion prompted coach Billy Slater to drop him from the team for his own good.
It has now been revealed that the 25-year-old Newcastle Knights star, who scored the deciding try in last year’s decider, has made the mature decision to abandon all Origin hopes this season.
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news corp Ponga reportedly delivered the request to Slater in a text message earlier in the week, well ahead of Wednesday night’s opening game, in which Walsh starred and Queensland came from behind, beating NSW.
“I watched the game last night and I was really happy for Queensland and for Reece,” said Ponga.
“He had a great debut. I always knew he would.”
Asked if he has retired for the remaining two games of the series, Ponga said: “Yes, that’s right, I’ve told Billy I have to focus on Newcastle at the moment.”
“I contacted him earlier in the week to let him know and wish him luck,” he added.
“I love Queensland and the Maroons shirt but I have to play more games and be on the field for Newcastle at the moment. It was a really difficult decision but I will fight to regain my place in the Queensland team next year.”
Ponga has enjoyed a disruptive season for the Knights after suffering a concussion in the first minute of the Knights’ clash with the Wests Tigers.
It was his fourth time in ten months, putting his career in jeopardy and prompting a trip to Canada for advanced neurological testing
Ponga returned in Round 8 and played 53 minutes without a substitute while suffering another concussion in Round 12 but passed the assessment of his head injury.
He was moved from fifth position to full-back in last week’s game against Manly and played a leading role in the 28-18 win.