Queensland’s State of Origin preparations have suffered a blow, with injury forcing Kalyn Ponga out of Newcastle’s match this weekend.
It comes on top of a tripping charge for Felise Kaufusi out of last night’s NRL match between Melbourne and Brisbane.
A statement from the Knights says Ponga’s ongoing groin injury will keep him out of the side’s match against Manly on Sunday, leaving the fullback in serious doubt for the series opener the following week. The Maroons will name their side for Game One on Monday morning.
Ponga hasn’t played since Newcastle’s Round Nine win over Canberra.
Kaufusi, who was a certain selection for the Maroons, will miss one match even if he takes the early guilty plea.
The grade one charge has a base penalty of 100 points, or one match, but Kaufusi’s prior record means he attracts a loading that will trigger a suspension.
It’s Kaufusi’s third charge this season, meaning he’s ineligible for a fine, which is the normal punishment for a grade one trip. He was suspended for two matches in Round Two for dangerous contact on Parramatta’s Ryan Matterson, and fined in Round Nine for dangerous contact on South Sydney’s Cody Walker.
That means he’ll need to successfully fight the charge at the judiciary to have any hope of playing in the series-opener on Wednesday week.
Although Kaufusi’s potential ban would be served during Melbourne’s match against Gold Coast next Saturday, he would still be ineligible for the Origin match the following Wednesday, after the NRL closed the infamous ‘TBA’ loop-hole once used by Queensland to select the suspended Lote Tuqiri.
Kaufusi is the only player charged out of last night’s match.
The venue for the June 9 match is still yet to be finalised, with NRL boss Peter V’landys confirming this morning that a decision is imminent.
The game was due to be played at the MCG, a move that is in serious doubt in light of Victoria’s lockdown.
“We’ve got a partnership with Victoria and the Victorian government, and they’ve always been very good to rugby league,” V’landys told Radio 2GB’s Ben Fordham.
“When a partner is down, you don’t take advantage of them, you don’t kick them. We’re going to have more dialogue with them today, but it seems that it probably won’t be able to be held at the MCG.
“We’ll make a decision either today or tomorrow.
“Every government in Australia has come to us looking for it, so there’s no shortage of venues, or governments that want the greatest game of all in their state.”
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