Coach Kevin Walters addresses his players.
Coach Kevin Walters addresses his players.

Teen on cusp of Qld debut as Kevvy names 2018 bolters

KEVIN Walters has put 11 Origin rookies on notice but there are three who have really caught his eye.

For a Queenslander, a Maroons jersey is the ultimate prize for a scintillating start to the NRL season.

So it's fitting that discovering early form is the challenge the mentor has issued to his next batch of Origin hopefuls.

Earlier this year Kyle Feldt, Ethan Lowe, Felise Kaufusi, Kalyn Ponga, Tautau Moga, Jai Arrow, Lloyd Perrett, Ashley Taylor, Christian Welch, Corey Norman and Brenko Lee took part in the Emerging Maroons camp and the coach expects at least one of them to debut in this year's series.

From the list, Walters singled out three players who really caught his eye.

"Kalyn Ponga was really impressive in there, as was Corey Norman," Walters said.

"Jai Arrow was a newcomer as well.

Kalyn Ponga at Queensland’s Emerging Origin camp.
Kalyn Ponga at Queensland’s Emerging Origin camp.

"You'd expect someone to come from that camp again. They do every year. I don't know who that person is going to be but those camps are really important for our current team and the future.

"Someone will get a run. Someone will come in and try and make a statement."

But just who that 'someone' Walters speaks of is unclear.

What we do know is there's a vacancy in the halves.

Following the representative retirement of both Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, Michael Morgan is favoured to secure one spot but the other is there for the taking.

Norman's early form for Parramatta saw him enter the conversation last series but Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt are never far from the conversation, so too Cameron Munster.

"He started the season really well for Parramatta last year," Walters said.

"If he can maintain that sort of standard … with those two positions coming available in the halves, it's up to those guys to grab their opportunity in clubland and really drive home their chances of selection.

Maroons coach Kevin Walters during training.
Maroons coach Kevin Walters during training.

"Michael Morgan obviously had a great finish in that position last year.

"Cameron Munster had a terrific Origin III and finished off the year really well.

"DCE had a terrific year and Ben Hunt is at a new club so it'll be nice to see how he fits in."

At 19, Ponga's addition to the Maroons' system is one of the more interesting.

Also eligible to represent New Zealand, Ponga recently declared his allegiance sits with Australia.

Despite having just nine top grade games to his name, Ponga's services have long been hotly contested.

Now he's declared himself a Queenslander, Walters will be watching the Newcastle recruit with great interest.

Corey Norman in the Maroon.
Corey Norman in the Maroon.

"He's been in our system for several years without being in it as such," Walters said.

"He's a talented young kid, that's for sure. After speaking to Johnathan Thurston about his progress over the last couple of years, John's obviously excited by the young fella

"Now he's at Newcastle it's a good opportunity for him to get some football under his belt at a high level.

"Origin is something he's got his mind set on down the track. His big challenge will be to come into grade and play some consistent rugby league for the Knights."


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