• Timana Tahu: NSW should win Origin, but good luck stopping Kalyn Ponga (AAP)Source: AAP
Timana Tahu says NSW Blues have picked the team to win this year’s State of Origin series, especially including players such as Cody Walker, but stopping Queensland’s Kalyn Ponga is a different task altogether.
Timana Tahu

28 May 2019 - 4:55 PM  UPDATED 28 May 2019 - 4:56 PM

Brad Fittler’s picked a really good NSW team and on paper, they should win the series.

The Blues forward pack is big and David Klemmer has been playing awesome footy for the Knights. I’ll be taking a close look on Over the Black Dot tonight at how he’s been playing because his yardage game and his metres after contact has been brilliant, along with his leadership for the Newcastle Knights.

When you start playing rep football there’s hardly any mistakes. It’s not like an NRL game where you’ll have a few mistakes here and there. Origin is just about clinical, high-pressure possession and it’s a yardage game.

There are only going to be a few chances next Wednesday where you’re going to get into the attacking zone and have an attacking set, because in Origin there’re just so many good players and people know how to control the football.

It comes down to who your game breakers are and with Damien Cook at hooker linking up with Cody Walker, NSW have a big advantage with those two helping create on the unstructured plays.


Queensland’s strength is definitely going to be Kalyn Ponga and all of their traffic is probably going to go to the left edge, where Ponga plays his best. 

Queensland have also got a good forward pack and Kevin Walters has picked a mobile forward pack to help cover for Daly Cherry-Evans who hasn’t played for a while, and Michael Morgan playing out of position in the centres.

I think they’re trying to keep it to as much of a yardage game as possible and see if NSW crumble. Because the NSW team are an attacking side, whereas Kevin Walters is just going to try and grind it out and grind it out till the last minute and that’s typical Queensland football.

They’ve just got to stay in the fight and they’re gonna be physical and maybe play a little dirty. You see fullas like Josh McGuire in there and Joe Ofahengaue who’s been part of the success of the Broncos coming in hard and dirty.  Matt Gillett adds toughness as well and Josh Papalii’s been playing some really good football.


Where it might come a little unstuck for NSW is how they try and stop Ponga. Fittler’s picked Josh Morris at right centre just to defend Kalyn Ponga, but Kalyn Ponga’s not even really going to meet Josh Morris in the line.

Kalyn Ponga’s strength is in isolating the back-rower which is Tyson Frizell, who was targeted in their club game a couple of weeks ago and we had a good look at that on the show.

Traditionally, teams will have the fullback sweeping the back-rower but Kalyn Ponga doesn’t do that. He isolates the back-rower in the defensive side. I’ve pointed it out in my Chalk Talk how he plays and Frizell’s going to be the target, so for Morris to be in, the Blues are just playing a bit of a safe card.

I would have picked Jack Wighton in there because his energy at the moment is awesome and I pointed it out last week the reasons why he should be playing Origin. He’s matured into a player whose game is perfect for Origin and although he’s a utility back and they’ve got him on the bench, I think that’s a waste of a position given what he could do starting for NSW.

But I do like the NSW bench and Payne Haas has been going so well, even the players have been talking about him, not just the media.

I was talking to one player about him who was impressed by not just his size but they’re talking about his engine and how he can play big minutes. He’s only 19 and he’s big but he’s also fast, he’s got footwork and he’s got an engine. He’s a supreme athlete.

Before the bench is called on though, with Nathan Cleary and Walker combining, it’s a strong situation for the Blues. I’m glad Cody Walker is in the side because he’s been game breaker for South Sydney and often playing in a style that comes off the top of his head.

That’s what NSW has been missing as well and with Brad Fittler, Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus, that kind of era of players, they love it when players can play off the top of their head and when they see something they go for it.

The kids and this generation of players are too structured when executing a plan to get to open space. Cody Walker is gonna hit players like Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr and James Tedesco, who are all impromptu and inspired players. They’re not built for structure, they’re built to demand the ball and to then make something happen.


On the show tonight we’ll go further into all sorts of Origin chat and breakdown a bit of form and the play of David Klemmer for NSW and Dane Gagai at Queensland, and why he’s better on the wing than at centre. 

Looking forward to it as always and hope you can join us then.


Catch Timana Tahu, Jodan Perry, Bo de la Cruz and George Rose on #OverTheBlackDot Tuesdays, 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34).