Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga has lifted the lid on his omission from the Maroons squad, stating required shoulder surgery was the only factor in his decision to not play in the series, per Fox Sports.
Just days after being selected to represent his state for the 2020 series, Ponga was forced to withdraw from Wayne Bennett’s squad after it was suggested the 22-year-old underwent surgery for his troubled right shoulder.
NRL 360’s Paul Kent suggested “life in the bubble has worn him down” and “it was long odds for him to play Origin anyway”, with Ponga denying any report of the sort.
“Journos, they make anything up and people believe it. When I got my surgery and they saw what was wrong with it, I had advice from people that I trust and I’m glad I made that decision to get the surgery,” Ponga said.
“Given the extent of how bad it was, it could have been pretty costly.”
The Newcastle star has been in a shoulder sling until this week after seeing a surgeon on the weekend.
“I got my sling off just today actually. I’ve been in a sling for six weeks so it’s just rehab now and back to hard work,” Ponga revealed.
The fullback was ecstatic to see the undermanned Maroons gets the job done over New South Wales.
“The (Queensland) boys got the job done, it was mad. (I was) disappointed, you always want to be in those games. Those are the hardest games in rugby league and that’s the environment you want to be in,” he said.
“I was just happy the boys got the job done, we won and celebrated. Everything around the team, and every person what they went through, it was pretty cool to see.”
Ponga added to his disappointment, revealing he had hoped to play under Bennett.
“It would be (cool to play under Bennett), that was something I was looking forward to,” Ponga said.
“I think Mal (Meninga) was on the coaching staff as well, so to be involved with that would have been really cool.
“I don’t know if (Bennett) is going to be doing it next year, but one day (he might coach me).”
Childhood friend to Ponga, AJ Brimson, pulled on the No.1 jersey for Queensland for game one, with Ponga stating he looks forward to battling the Titans star for years to come.
“I love him. Every now and then he will text me to say he misses me,” Ponga said of Brimson.
“I think it’s crazy how far he’s come in the last year to be honest. He was good last year, but to come back and then those last nine games or whatever, he’s a freak, he stood out.
“He’s just a really good player and it’s cool he will be part of the Queensland system for many years to come, it’s exciting.
“It’s healthy competition. Whoever gets to wear the jersey it’s a privilege and an honour, so I’m just happy he’s playing good footy and hopefully I can play good footy too.”