The Indigenous All Stars' David Fifita is tackled by Kalyn Ponga and teammates. Picture: Mike Owen/Getty Images
The Indigenous All Stars' David Fifita is tackled by Kalyn Ponga and teammates. Picture: Mike Owen/Getty Images

Ponga's game against All Stars shows he has plenty to learn

KALYN  Ponga showed he still had plenty to learn as a playmaker as he failed to fire in his first hitout for New Zealand Maori in their clash with the Indigenous All Stars.

The 20-year-old, set to switch from fullback to five-eighth for Newcastle in the NRL this season, had his first taste of frontline action at AAMI Park.

While it was hard to get a true read with his side often on the back foot in the 34-14 loss, Ponga looked rattled at times.

He made uncharacteristic errors, dropping balls and throwing an intercept pass, while he also missed an important tackle on James Roberts.

Maori coach Stacey Jones said he'd agreed not to play the young star for the whole game following his post-season ankle surgery and it was difficult for Ponga to settle in.

 "We had to manage his game time - he had a disrupted preseason so I'd been talking to them (Newcastle) and they asked us to take care of him," Jones said post-match.  

Maori players celebrate a try.
Maori players celebrate a try.

"He was probably the player we needed tonight to be in the game for the whole way and it disrupted us a little as far as the fluency went."

Jones said he had seen enough of Ponga to recognise he was going to be success in the new role.

Ponga, who finished runner-up in last year's Dally M count, would also be able to rely on a more experienced halves partner at the Knights, in Mitchell Pearce, while in the Maori team he was paired with another rookie, Jahrome Hughes.

 "There's some stuff there - you know he's going to be a wonderful player," Jones said.  

The Indigenous All Stars team pose with their trophy.
The Indigenous All Stars team pose with their trophy.

Immortal Andrew Johns, who was commentating on the match, was gushing in his praise despite the faltering performance.

  "If he stays injury-free he'll win the Dally M," Johns said.

  - AAP

News Corp Australia

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