Billy Slater’s fullback call on Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga is the first big blunder of his Origin reign

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We Blues fans were sobered this week by news Billy Slater may pick both Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga in his Maroons side to administer this year’s routine State of Origin beating.

Responding to how he’d manage the first-world headache of accommodating two sumptuous fullbacks in one team, the coach’s replies of “everything’s a possibility” and “they’d love to be teammates” was enough to send shivers through the state at a time when our focus should be on cricket and sweat rash.

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But if the thought of keeping these two quiet is giving you hives, never fear- because Slater’s just played himself like a Nintendo.

If history’s anything to go by, we’ll look back upon this moment as the first glorious misstep in his reign of gentlemanly terror.


Not only is Slater’s mere consideration of picking both talismen a vulgar flaunt of wealth, much like having an extra arm surgically attached for your surplus Gucci watches and winners rings.

But more importantly, it’s the first sign he’s bamboozled by his own emperor’s buffet and in the process, is transforming in to the enemy himself.

Sure, it would take a bold man to resist pimping-up their side with two of the comp’s slipperiest fullbacks loitering out the back like nightclub playboys at closing time.

After all, imagine adding the hottest talent in the game and the reigning Dally M medallist to a Maroons backline already thrumming on talent and NSW helplessness?

The revelation alone is worth 6-8 points and a stiff breeze, and better yet, thuds us Blues back to earth after receiving the best news we’ve had in years last week with the coaching retirement of Cameron Smith.

Yes, Walsh endured a harrowing finale to 2023 where he slagged off a fan’s mum and capitulated in a grand final, but for the large part, everything he touched turned to gold.

As for Ponga, he ended on an absolute tear with the Knights culminating in a stint working with toddlers on Play School, the perfect simulated match conditions for dealing with the Blues.

It’s an embarrassment of riches for Slater, but it’s actually a blessing in disguise for the Blues.

Many have argued jamming Walsh and Ponga in to the same 17 could actually play in to NSW’s hands, if NSW is anything to go by.

Both are out-and-out fullbacks, and unless Peter V’landys has gone rogue on the rule changes again, there’s only one spot on the field for this specialist position.

And until Origin devolves in to a MAFS revenge scandal, Slater may boast about stringing along two bombshells — but ultimately he can’t have both.

This would mean picking a player out of position, a move seldom employed by Queensland unless its eligibility laws.

As we know, the practice of shoving square pegs in round holes in Origin is fraught with danger, and that’s why NSW do it all the time.

Excluding the Andrew Johns/Brett Kimmorley pickle or the roaming Tommy Turbo project, we’ve shoved so many cars in the wrong lanes over the years for returns that have been far from flash.

Are Queensland — the paragon of stability, loyalty and principle — about to go off-piste and mimic the very thing they’ve spent decades mocking?

Yes, you could pick one on the bench and play Ponga at lock or Walsh at five-eighth, but that would be ignoring the Knight’s history of concussion and Walsh’s of overstimulation.

And besides, where would that leave Ben Hunt, the man who annually unloads his angst for St George-Illawarra on the Blues?

In summary, Queensland may be rolling deep like a rat with a gold tooth, but remember this:

For every effective Cooper Cronk #14 or Greg Bird at five-eighth, there’s the entrails of 15 Damien Cooks at centre.

Dane Eldridge is a warped cynic yearning for the glory days of rugby league, a time when the sponges were magic and the Mondays were mad.

He’s never strapped on a boot in his life, and as such, should be taken with a grain of salt.

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