As the NRL finals series inches closer, it’s clear that three potential stars have captured the attention and respect of their peers: Kalyn Ponga, Reece Walsh, and Dylan Edwards. These three individuals are vying for the spotlight, noteworthy for their exceptional performances this season.
James Tedesco has broadly been hailed as the sport’s premier No.1. However, his fellow fullbacks Ponga, Walsh and Edwards are considered pivotal players, their forthcoming actions undoubtedly determining the outcome of the impending finals series.
The decision to single out these players as potential game-changers was initiated by NRL captains during the recent finals’ launch. They identified these three individuals as particularly daunting opposition, even though popular halfbacks Shaun Johnson and Nathan Cleary also received some favour.
Fullback superstar Kalyn Ponga has been on the sidelines recently due to a shoulder injury. Despite this setback affecting his practice this week, it is predicted that he will be present for the clash against Canberra at the brimming McDonald Jones Stadium this Sunday.
Bringing to light Ponga’s skill, Brisbane’s captain, Adam Reynolds said, “I like what Kalyn Ponga has been doing, he’s a threat with the ball, he makes players around him better – he’s giving them confidence”. He also praised the team’s current play, asserting that “Newcastle are playing a nice brand of footy at the moment. They’re a real dark horse to win the competition, especially with Kalyn playing the way he is.”
Commenting on Ponga’s form, soon-to-be retiring Jarrod Croker stated, “The form he’s shown the past 12 weeks, he’s untouchable at the moment. The other players grow around him, everyone has seen it happen, he’s playing well, and the Knights have got on to the back of that.”
Melbourne’s Christian Welch commended Dylan Edwards, who recently renewed his contract with the premiers until 2028. “Dylan is a phenomenal player, and he’s so important [to Penrith],” Welch stated. “People look at his run metres, but there’s so many other little things he does for that team. Look at the way he returns the ball and the momentum and quick play-the-balls he got. All of a sudden you’re just reeling backwards. Dylan Edwards starts that and if you don’t do a good job on him, you’re chasing your tail for the rest of the game.”
For Cronulla skipper, Wade Graham, Penrith powerhouse, Reece Walsh, can potentially thwart the title three-peat. “I think Penrith are a juggernaut, they’re on track to do it again, and it’s going to take something pretty special to knock them off. I think maybe someone like the Broncos, someone like Reece Walsh – that excitement and just that fearlessness he’s playing with – it’s going to take someone like that to knock them [Panthers] off.”
Cleary appreciatively mentioned New Zealand playmaker Johnson and his impressive play this season saying, “Shaun has been the best halfback this year and just about the best player in the comp.”
On another note, there was some banter exchanged between Newcastle’s Tyson Frizell and Welch, after a Newcastle fan questioned Welch about his earlier jibes concerning the Knights. Welch made a light-hearted comment about attending celebration drinks if Newcastle takes home the premiership.