Growing calls for Kalyn Ponga to make his State of Origin debut look set to be finally answered in game two after Queensland coach Kevin Walters admitted he "can't hold him back for too much longer".
Walters says veteran fullback Billy Slater will be the first picked for June 24's must win Origin II in Sydney if he can overcome a hamstring injury that forced him to withdraw just days ahead of last week's series opening loss in Melbourne.
Slater has been named to make his injury return in Melbourne's NRL clash with Newcastle on Sunday - the day before the Maroons unveil their Origin II team.
But Walters and fellow Maroons selectors will be just as interested in the player Slater lines up against this weekend - Knights No.1 Ponga.
Even if Slater is passed fit, Ponga is expected to feature in the Maroons 17 after calls from the likes of Mal Meninga and Wally Lewis for the 20-year-old to be unleashed by Walters.
And it seems Walters has now also jumped on the Ponga bandwagon.
"Since the opening round everyone has been throwing up his name to play Origin," Walters told Fox Sports' Queenslanders Only.
"The selectors are certainly aware of his ability. It's just what is the right time to blood him?
"Is it game two? It could very well be.
"I can assure all the Queenslanders out there that he is very much in the picture for game two – we can't hold him back for too much longer."
Ponga - who has played just 23 NRL games - is already tipped to become Slater's long term Maroons No.1 successor. In the meantime Ponga is expected to be considered for a bench utility role in game two.
"We can't hold him back for too much longer."
Slater is desperate to add to his 29 Origin tally after announcing that he will retire from representative football after the 2018 interstate series.
When pressed on team changes for game two, Walters said: "There will be some changes.
"Billy Slater hopefully will come back into the side. That will be one definite change.
"As for the rest we will see how the week goes. I am confident we can give a really good account of ourselves on Sunday week."
As they sweat on Slater, the Maroons have been rocked by news that Origin veteran Darius Boyd had retired from rep footy, effective immediately. Boyd now joins fellow retired Maroons greats Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston on the sidelines this year.
The story Ponga states a case that Kevin Walters admits is hard to ignore first appeared on Newcastle Herald.