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Ponga's Knights woes no worry for Slater

By Ed Jackson
Billy Slater is confident Kalyn Ponga will recapture his best form in the Origin series. (AAP)

Queensland State of Origin coach Billy Slater is confident Kalyn Ponga can shine for the Maroons despite Newcastle's NRL woes.

Ponga and the injury-hit Knights have slipped to the bottom of the NRL ladder after a seven-game losing run, with their superstar fullback enduring some hot and cold form so far in 2022.

Slater, who will coach the Maroons for the first time in the June 8 series opener against NSW at Accor Stadium, is unfazed and says he's seen enough from the 24-year-old to know he'll do a job for his state if fit and available for game one.

"One thing that hasn't been questioned is Kalyn's effort and his willingness to put himself on the line and be involved in the game," Slater said.

"Sure his team's not going well at the moment. He's had a whole heap of changes in his key positions.

"Being the captain that he is, he's stepping up and trying to play other people's roles.

"It doesn't concern me that the team's not going overly well. I watch Kalyn as an individual and I see a fair desire there to be involved in the game and a want to compete.

"I know what Kalyn's capable of."

While the Knights might be struggling, North Queensland are flying with their win over Newcastle last weekend putting them third on the ladder.

Slater, who spent time working with Queensland's women's squad on Friday in Brisbane, says there are several Cowboys who have caught his eye with their performances this season.

"Tommy Dearden is one young guy that's really making some noise and playing tough, running the football and defending well," he said.

"The whole system at the Cowboys at the moment, everyone's doing their job and everyone's playing the team way.

"The two backrowers stand out. (Heilum) Luki and (Jeremiah) Nanai. Reuben Cotter's having a fantastic season. Kyle Feldt and Valentine Holmes are bouncing off the energy of the youth up there.

"It's a good vibe up there at the Cowboys and it's really important for Queensland that the Cowboys, the Broncos are playing some good football.

"They're on the right track the Queensland teams."

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