NRL | Fullback battle that will set McDonald Jones Stadium alight

It is the electrifying battle of the fullbacks that has the potential to light up McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.

In what may well prove to be a glimpse into the future of what we can expect to see at State of Origin level down the track, young Newcastle Knights star Kalyn Ponga will go head-to-head at the back with explosive Manly tearaway Tom Trbojevic.

It is a mouth-watering confrontation that will have a near full-house in Newcastle on the edge of their seats.

At 21, Trbojevic has two years on Ponga in age and a decided edge in experience with the player they call “Turbo” debuting for the Eagles in 2015 and having already played 55 NRL games and representing the Kangaroos on two occasions during last year’s World Cup.

A testament to just how big a threat he will be to the Knights is his try-scoring strike-rate – 30 tries in those 55 matches.

In contrast, 19-year-old Ponga has made just nine NRL appearances and will be debuting for the Knights after playing the past few seasons at the North Queensland Cowboys.

But while the Knights have attempted to keep the hype surrounding Ponga in check in a bid to shield him from the pressure, there is a real sense of anticipation and excitement in Newcastle about just what this kid is capable of.

Knights co-captain Jamie Buhrer admits it is a great match-up.

“I don’t want to impose too much hype around them because there has already been enough hype for both of them,”he said.

“They are both quality players. KP [Ponga] is obviously at the beginning of his career and we are confident he doesn’t have to go out there and be the superstar and carry us this year.

“He just needs to do his job and do it well and I’m confident he will.

“Turbo has been around for a while now and everyone knows what he can do. He is on the cusp, I suppose, of being a fulltime Origin player.

“Look, it’s going to be a great match-up but we’re confident in KP that now and in the future, he will come out on top there.” 

Manly coach Trent Barrett recognises the potential Ponga threat.

"Pearce is really important to what they want to do but Ponga is a real handful at the back. We know where their threats are,”he said.

“You've still got to stop them but I'm not too worried about them. You go into it with a bit of unknown but the big thing is we have to get our game right.

"We've had a lot of time to prepare for it so I'm expecting everyone to play well on Friday night.

"We go to Newcastle with all the expectation on them and that's how we like it."

"We know what's expected.”

Electrifying: Knights fans will be hoping rookie Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga can terrorise the Manly defence when he makes his NRL debut for the club at McDonald Jones Stadium. Picture: David Stewart

Electrifying: Knights fans will be hoping rookie Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga can terrorise the Manly defence when he makes his NRL debut for the club at McDonald Jones Stadium. Picture: David Stewart