King Wally anoints Origin's next big things
FUTURE league greats? Maybe. What is certain is that Cameron Munster, Nathan Cleary and Kalyn Ponga have the potential to become Origin stars of today.
They are the three that have Origin's greatest player, Wally Lewis, most excited.
They have so far combined for just three Origin appearances, Munster two for Queensland, and Cleary one for NSW, with Ponga to debut for the Maroons on Sunday night at ANZ Stadium.
An unabashed fan of the Melbourne Storm, "King Wally" famously forwarded a text message of support to five-eighth Munster before he debuted in game three last year, wishing him "the best".
"I just want to wish you the best for tonight's game, mate," Lewis said in his message.
"Playing a series decider is something every footballer dreams of. You are a great player and you will handle the pressure well.
"Queenslanders always trust their mates in Origin. Good luck. Wally Lewis."
Lewis admitted this week that he didn't normally get involved in Queensland's preparations but said he had wanted to make the man wearing his old No.6 jersey into battle "more comfortable".
"You kind of feel like you're going from kindergarten to high school pretty quick," Lewis said.
"If you feel like you've got the support of other people then you tend to do it so much easier."
Munster went on to set up two tries in last year's series-deciding win at Suncorp Stadium. The 23-year-old could also hold his head high after the Maroons lost game one this year.
"He's a fine player," Lewis said. "Only the good players can go out there playing against the best and still have time and space on their side."
While Lewis has maroon blood running through his veins, he needed little thinking time to earmark the assured 20-year-old Cleary as his favourite Blue, even though he has played just one Origin game.
"I've always been a fan of their man in the No.7, it's always the position," he said.
"His dad (Ivan Cleary) was a good player.
"The thing about the kid, even under enormous pressure, is he's got that cool, calm and collected look about him."
The stage is also set for fellow 20-year-old Ponga to make his first appearance in a Maroons jersey after only nine NRL games for the Cowboys and 15 for the Knights.
"People are asking if he's old enough," Lewis said. "Well, if you're good enough you're old enough. He's obviously got ability."