Fortunately for the Knights, the loss of Ponga for the final 20 minutes did not cost them a memorable victory. But Brown – and Queensland coach Kevin Walters – will be worried Ponga may be in for similar treatment during the Origin series.
‘‘Sides are definitely challenging Kalyn physically, and he’s proven his toughness is not an issue – he’s a tough kid,’’ Brown said. ‘‘But if they do test him and get it wrong, they should be dealt with on the field, not the next day.
‘‘If aggression turns into foul play, it needs to be dealt with.
‘‘Kalyn has unfortunately had a couple of knocks the last couple of weeks, high ones, but with the cameras these days, whilst we all go out to be good on the fullbacks, and everyone wants to be physical with fullbacks – we wanted to be with ‘Teddy’ [James Tedesco] on Friday night – we need to make sure when the opposition sides get it wrong, it’s dealt with.
‘‘It’s not like the old days where players would be targeted and you’d try and take them out of the contest.
‘‘Blokes like Kalyn and Teddy, they’re such good players, they’re the ones the kids go to watch. You’d imagine Kalyn and Teddy will have an impact on Origin, it’s just which one will have the most impact on any given day.
‘‘They’re too good [as] players and athletes to totally take out of a game. It’s about limiting the damage they do, that’s the key.’’
NSW coach Brad Fittler said in recent weeks that Ponga was one player who kept him up at night. He received an even bigger rap from Knights teammate Mitchell Pearce, who labelled him ‘‘the best player I’ve ever played with’’.
Pearce did not back away from the comment when speaking in the Knights sheds on Friday, predicting the Blues could not keep him quiet for the entire 80 minutes.
‘‘He’s just deadly and always comes up with stuff,’’ Pearce said. ‘‘He lives and plays in the moment. Players like that don’t get caught up with the outside emotion. He’s always throwing tricks at you, he’s got more skills than anyone I know, so it’s about trying to limit him.’’
Pearce said Ponga’s try in the first half when he got on the outside of Angus Crichton and then shrugged off Brock Lamb was an example of how dangerous he can be. ‘‘Browny gets Kalyn one-on-one with a slower back-rower or a weaker defender at half and he’s just too hard to stop,’’ Pearce said.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.