NRL Rd 15 - Knights v Cowboys
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 23: Kalyn Ponga of the Newcastle Knights runs the ball during the round 15 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the North Queensland Cowboys at McDonald Jones Stadium on August 23, 2020 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

As State of Origin approaches, Queensland have a tough decision on their hands regarding who to start at fullback.

However, it appears as though the Maroons have almost made the call on who will start out of Kalyn Ponga and Reece Walsh.

Former Melbourne Storm legend and now Maroons coach, Cameron Smith revealed to SEN 1170 on Thursday that coach Billy Slater is "leaning" towards Ponga.

Embed from Getty Images

It's a decision that Smith said he would support, with the former great stating that fans are yet to see Ponga's best in a Maroon jersey.

"He hasn't been at his best and I think he's aware of that too," Smith said.

"Speaking to Billy Slater, he has been in contact with Kalyn across this season and he's also been in contact with Reece Walsh as well.

"Some players, they're not finding their best form or feeling their best in club land, but as soon as they get out of there into an Origin camp environment, they seem to find a new sort of energy or exuberance about themselves and find their best again.

See Also: Roosters to hand young gun debut, contract announcement

Further elaborating on the situation, Smith backed Ponga in to be someone who would lift once entering the Maroons camp.

"Maybe Kalyn Ponga will do that if that's the way Maroons selectors go and Bill as coach. I think that's the way he's leaning, having Kalyn as the number one."

The decision to stick or twist with Ponga has been looming following Walsh's good form so far this season. The 19-year-old this week revealed that advice from Slater around his defensive efforts was a big part of his stellar season so far.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 22: Reece Walsh
during a QueenslandMaroons State of Origin training session at the Cbus Super Stadium on June 22, 2021 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Having been set to play in game two last year before sustaining a a hamstring strain, the Warriors young gun has taken on further advice from Slater about preparation.

"I tore my hamstring in the captain's run before Origin last year. Now, every time I get to a captain's run, I make sure I do all my stretching. I make sure my preparation is all perfect so it doesn't happen again," Walsh said.

"I've worked hard on my defence with 'Browny' (Nathan Brown) and it's an area where I have really grown.

"I have spoken to Billy and he wants me to keep growing my defensive game and to focus on myself in all areas. If I can get better each game, then I feel it is going to help, no matter what team I am playing in. That is one of the things Billy spoke to me about."

See Also: Raiders facing mass change as flu sweeps camp

As one of the greatest players to ever pull on a Queensland jumper, Slater was one of Queensland's selectors last year, pushing Walsh's case. He's been full of praise for the teenager's attitude.

"I have done a bit of stuff with Reece over his career and I've had some communication with him," Slater said.

"I have got a lot of time for him. He's a great young man and has a good desire to get the best out of his NRL career. There's a lot that goes into that (fullback) position.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 11: Billy Slater of Queensland waves to the crowd as he is chaired from the field by Cameron Munster and Will Chambers of Queensland after his final game for Queensland during game three of the State of Origin series between the QueenslandMaroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on July 11, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

"We see all the shiny stuff that Reece is good at. He highlighted that when he first hit the scene last year but he's working on a lot of the stuff behind the scenes that teams really benefit from. He's on the right track."

As both players are incredibly talented, it's a good headache for Queensland coach Slater to have. With the final decision still yet to be made, the duo still have time to press their claims.