NEWCASTLE Knights will attempt to achieve what Queensland found impossible – shutting down James Tedesco – when they host Sydney Roosters at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
The Roosters, meanwhile, face an equally daunting challenge in trying to contain Newcastle’s own dynamic No.1, Kalyn Ponga, who will be hoping to push his claims for a Maroons debut in Origin II.
Tedesco was outstanding in the series opener at the MCG on Wednesday, won 22-12 by NSW, and Roosters coach Trent Robinson has confirmed he and the club’s two other Blues representatives, Latrell Mitchell and Boyd Cordner, would all back up against Newcastle.
Knights coach Nathan Brown said Newcastle’s ruck defence would be the key to nullifying Tedesco.
“You certainly need your middles and your bigger men to be right on their game,’’ Brown said.
“If they’re doing a good job defensively, under fatigue, and they’re working hard and as a unit, that gives you your best chance. But if you get a bloke who has half a play off, as he [Tedesco] showed [in Origin], he can certainly come through you and make it look pretty easy.”
Brown said the three days Ponga spent in camp with Queensland during the week, on standby after Billy Slater was ruled out, would be the “best lesson he’ll get for a long time”.
“His time will come, I’m sure, whether it’s the next Origin, or the one after, or next year,” Brown said.
“I think all the right people from Queensland have acknowledged he’s definitely going to be there at some stage. Probably the sooner the better for Kalyn, but we’re grateful that we’ll have him this weekend for ourselves.”
Ponga’s clash with Tedesco would be “a good contest for Kalyn”, Brown said, adding that: “We’ve got our own fullback who we would imagine would figure highly in their plans as well.”
Robinson confirmed the Roosters had done their homework on Ponga.
“He's a good player,” Robinson said.
“He’s played well this year and he's got the accolades he should. And that's why we can't wait to head up to Newcastle to play our footy.
“We're at a point where there's still a lot of room for improvement. We want to improve our game and play how we want to play.”
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