‘I get nervous’: Maroons legend admits Ponga scares him
Even State of Origin's greatest warrior Cameron Smith admits he gets nervous when playing Kalyn Ponga.
But the former Queensland captain reckons that augers well for the Maroons, tipping Ponga to strike fear into NSW hearts in Sunday's State of Origin II in Perth.
Ponga, 21, has already been hailed as a 10-year player by the likes of ex- Maroons skipper Darren Lockyer after just two games for Queensland.
The WA-born, New Zealand-bred Ponga's freakish talent attracted the interest of the Kiwi national team after playing just two NRL matches.
And he has also been linked to a code switch despite holding an NRL contract until the end of 2021 after it was revealed last week that Wallabies coach Michael Cheika asked about his availability.
So it was no surprise when Smith - a veteran of a record 42 Origins - admitted the sight of Ponga in full flight made him feel anxious as an opponent.
Melbourne skipper Smith admitted he was only just recovering from combating Newcastle No.1 Ponga following the Storm's last NRL round win over the Knights.
But he believed that was a good sign for the Maroons ahead of a game in which they can seal their 12th series win in 14 years.
"I only played him last week against Newcastle and I can tell you every time he got the ball I was getting a little bit nervous," he said.
"But it's good that Queensland have got a guy in the side with those abilities.
"If I am feeling that (anxiety) and my Storm teammates are feeling that than I am hoping the Blues are feeling that on Sunday."
Ponga has tried to keep a level head before game two amid the Wallabies speculation, being restricted to just one all-in media appearance in Perth.
However Ponga indicated he always was mature for his age when revealing this week that he had knocked back Kiwi overtures early in his NRL career.
"When I was young the Kiwis wanted me to go into camp and go on tour but I had played two NRL games - based on form I didn't deserve to go," he said.
"I wanted to be picked based on my form knowing that I deserved to be there, not that they just wanted to snatch me up."
Still, Ponga - who discovered Origin on TV during his teenage years in Queensland - would be forgiven forgetting a big head after Maroons teammates raved about the No.1 before Origin II.
"He is one of the most talented guys I've seen by far," said veteran back-rower Matt Gillett.
"We are lucky to play with him."
Ponga was inspirational in just his second Origin, setting up two tries as Queensland claimed a come from behind 18-14 game one win.
But Queensland coach Kevin Walters warned NSW had not seen anything yet.
"He has only had two Origin games for Queensland so you would expect his best football is in front of him," he said.