Maroons bombshell: Ponga could rule himself out of Origin
Kalyn Ponga faces one of the toughest decisions of his young career on Tuesday.
Ponga, 22, has to decide whether to withdraw from the upcoming State of Origin series or risk taking on the NSW Blues with a bung shoulder.
While the Knights star is yet to make his final call if he will play or pull out to undergo immediate surgery, The Daily Telegraph understands Ponga has been playing with the labrum (cartilage) shoulder tear for the best part of the last two months.
While he has been able to play through the pain, it has noticeably impacted his game, especially in defence.
Watch the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals on Kayo. Every game before the Grand Final Live & On-Demand with no-ad breaks during play. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
With the Maroons already massive underdogs after back-to-back series defeats, this could be another huge blow for incoming coach Wayne Bennett.
Superstar five-eighth Cameron Munster is also struggling with a MCL knee injury suffered in Saturdays win over Parramatta, while Val Holmes is also suspended for the opening game.
Bennett is also expected to be without young gun backrower David Fifita for the series opener due to a syndesmosis ankle injury.
If Ponga is ruled out it would almost certainly open the door for Gold Coast sensation AJ Brimson to be elevated into the No.1 jumper.
Brimson had a sensational finish to the season, capping it off with a starring performance in the big final round win over Ponga's Knights.
Kalyn Ponga will require shoulder reconstruction surgery after scans revealed a torn labrum (cartilage) in his shoulder, could miss Origin (via @MichaelChammas). Has been playing with the injury for weeks, see this commonly in NRL (play through then reco surgery in offseason)— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) October 5, 2020
Could attempt to play through for the Origin series, but risk of further damage & how the injury affects his performance needs to be considered. Usually 3-5 months recovery, if he delays surgery til post Origin will leave him at risk of missing the start of 2021 season.— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) October 5, 2020
Ponga's injury is not the kind any player would want to take into Origin, but what makes it worse is when the opposition is aware of the weakness.
Ponga is set to meet with the Knights medical staff on Tuesday to make a final decision on his Origin availability.
The club does not want to pressure him one way or another given he has played with the injury as long as he has for the good of the club.
But the concern from Newcastle's perspective is that the injury will eventually require surgery, and playing the Origin series could make it even worse.
Popular NRL physio Brien Seeney said that this type of injury usually requires a three to five month recovery.
"Could attempt to play through for the Origin series, but risk of further damage and how the injury affects his performance needs to be considered," Seeney said.
That would mean if Ponga delays surgery until after Origin, it will leave the Knights' $1 million man at risk of missing the start of the 2021 NRL season.
It's about as bad as the news could get for Bennett who will take over from newly appointed Brisbane coach Kevvie Walters at short notice.
Queensland is due to name the first batch of its squad consisting of players outside the finals series on Tuesday.
The opening match will be played at the Adelaide Oval on November 4.
The Blues are $1.40 series favourites, with Queensland $3 underdogs.
Originally published as Maroons bombshell: Ponga could rule himself out of Origin