Queensland's State of Origin campaign is facing a potentially huge blow after scans revealed Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga requires shoulder surgery in the off-season.
The Herald can reveal Newcastle officials will meet with Ponga on Tuesday to decide whether he will withdraw from this year's Origin campaign after suffering a labral tear in his shoulder. The injury has hampered Ponga's football in the back half of the season.
Kalyn Ponga is in huge doubt for this year’s State of Origin series. Credit:Getty
Queensland are expected to name the first members of their 27-man squad on Tuesday but are still waiting on confirmation on Ponga's availability. The series kicks off at the Adelaide Oval on November 4.
The Knights are leaning towards sending Ponga to go under the knife as soon as possible to avoid added disruption to their 2021 pre-season but will speak to the fullback on Tuesday to gauge whether he believes he can still represent Queensland given the pain in his shoulder.
Knights players are expected to return to training on Tuesday for review and medical assessment. Surgery could see Ponga facing up to four months of rehabilitation. Having the surgery after playing in Origin in November would mean missing the start of the 2021 NRL season.
Ponga's potential withdrawal could open the door for Titans livewire AJ Brimson's Origin debut at fullback, given the Cowboys' Valentine Holmes is unavailable for game one due to suspension.
Queensland's incumbent fullback clutched his shoulder during Sunday afternoon's loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium, where the Knights were bundled out of the finals after surrendering an early 14-0 lead.
Ponga's fitness problem is another speed bump in a turbulent Origin lead-up for the Maroons. Wayne Bennett has taken over as coach after Kevin Walters accepted a two-year deal with the Brisbane Broncos.
Michael Morgan has also been ruled out for the series, while Gold-Coast bound David Fifita is unlikely to play a major part in Queensland's campaign after picking up an ankle injury in round 19. Five-eighth Cameron Munster is also battling a knee injury that may affect his involvement.
It comes after the Blues made a number of controversial selection decisions on Sunday night, leaving David Klemmer, Mitchell Pearce and Wade Graham out of their 27-man squad.
Fittler added just two names to his squad on Sunday, calling in Klemmer's Knights teammate Daniel Saifiti and Dragons centre Zac Lomax as a replacement for the unavailable Tom Trbojevic, who withdrew this week through injury.
Fittler will continue to add players to his squad as teams are knocked out of the premiership race. As it stands, six of the 27 spots in the squad have been filled. Saifiti and Lomax join Payne Haas, Tyson Frizell, Jake Trbojevic and Cameron McInnes.
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