THE KID'S ALRIGHT: Kalyn Ponga in action during a Queensland  training session at the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort on the Gold Coast.
THE KID'S ALRIGHT: Kalyn Ponga in action during a Queensland training session at the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort on the Gold Coast. DARREN ENGLAND

Hodges: 'Kids' sure to ignite Maroons

QUEENSLAND needs a spark and Kalyn Ponga could be it.

Ponga was always going to be there, making his debut for Queensland, it was only a matter of when.

It was a bit hard to throw the 20-year-old straight into the deep end in game one. He wasn't originally part of the team and then came into camp late.

NSW had 11 debutants, but they had the whole week to prepare, to understand what it's all about.

But in Sydney on Sunday night, Ponga will get the opportunity to make his dream become a reality.

I had a bit to do with him while he was in the Emerging Origin squad.

He just went quietly about his business.

But he's a special player. A freak of a player.

We see the way he plays for the Newcastle Knights week in, week out.

He's quickly become an absolute superstar of our game.

He's probably playing the best football out of anybody.

A lot of players in the Queensland side are possibly lacking self-belief after the 22-12 loss to the Blues in game one.

But with the injection of one of these fearless young kids, hopefully the boys can feed offthat and grow a bit of confidence.

When everyone's a little bit tired, you bring him on and let him do his stuff.

Speaking of inclusions to ignite the Maroons, there's another "kid' - Billy Slater.


BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 20: Kalyn Ponga talks with Billie Slater during a Queensland Maroons State of Origin training session at Sanctuary Cove on June 20, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)
APPRENTICE AND MASTER: Maroons debutant Kalyn Ponga gets some advice from Queensland great Billy Slater during a training session at Sanctuary Cove on Wednesday. Jono Searle

Queensland missed Billy in game one.

He's played 29 State of Origin games and some of the things he's done for Queensland over the past 14 years have been remarkable.

It would be a big kick in the guts if he were to train all week and then pull out a couple of days before the game. As a teammate, it would drain you a little.

Hopefully, though, he gets through the week fine and can front up for game two. I'd love to see him out there again.

It's his last series. You don't want to see a super player like that missing out on a great occasion.

NSW has the chance to close it out, but that comes with a lot of pressure, especially on your home turf - and knowing Queensland has fought back before.

The Blues won't want to face the Maroons on their home turf at one-all.

One thing Queensland can draw on, obviously, is the history. The boys prevailed last year after getting flogged in game one in Brisbane and winning in Sydney, which is always tough.

The Maroons have just got to draw confidence from that and believe in the process.

That's what Queensland has been all about - keep fighting and make sure you take your chances.

Obviously, the Blues have got a fast side. The Maroons just need to slow them down.

Queensland captain Greg Inglis was fantastic in game one and we know he will reproduce that effort.

Hopefully the guys around him can come with him this time and add some urgency to their games.

You'll know you'll certainly get that from Slater and Ponga.