Ka­lyn’s call-up costs the Cow­boys

With­out Ponga on the park, North Queens­land fall prey to the Pan­thers

Rugby League Week - - Pre Game - BY JOE McDONOUGH

THE UN­DER-20S COW­BOYS lost su­per­star-in-the-mak­ing Ka­lyn Ponga only two hours be­fore their grand fi­nal qual­i­fier – and were no match for the reign­ing cham­pi­ons as a re­sult.

While North Queens­land skip­per Cooper Bam­bling re­fused to pin their 32-16 loss to the Pan­thers on their full­back’s late call-up to first grade, he agreed it cer­tainly didn’t help their prepa­ra­tion.

“Prob­a­bly a cou­ple of hours be­fore kick-off, Kane Lin­nett didn’t pull up too well and Payney [NYC coach Aaron Payne] got the phone call from Paul Green that KP [Ponga] would be needed – so that was a lit­tle hur­dle we needed to get over and we couldn’t get over it,” Bam­bling says.

“But the whole year Ka­lyn hasn’t re­ally trained with us, he’s only done the cap­tain’s run, as he’s been train­ing with the NRL team . . . that’s not an ex­cuse.

“It def­i­nitely would’ve helped hav­ing that bit of class [in Ponga and Coen Hess] there, but like I said, we still had the tal­ent in the room there to win the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Same thing hap­pened to us last year. I was a part of that los­ing side and it’s a pretty dis­ap­point­ing way to go out, the game be­fore the grand fi­nal.”

Mi­nor pre­miers Pen­rith were in cruise con­trol for most of the match. The sec­ond-half sin-bin­ning of cen­tre Braidon Burns sent a scare through the camp but they re­grouped to ca­reer away again late.

Nathan Cleary’s 14 NRL starts meant he was un­avail­able to re­turn to the side he started with this sea­son, but full­back Dy­lan Ed­wards, who also made his NRL de­but in 2016, in­sists they’ve shown since Cleary’s pro­mo­tion they can cover for the prodi­gious half­back.

“The depth in our squad is out­stand­ing, re­ally,” he says. “Any­one that comes into our team just knows their role and does their job – it’s a real ben­e­fit to have that.”

As a mem­ber of last year’s premier­ship-win­ning team, Ed­wards in­sists they won’t be get­ting ahead of them­selves go­ing into the de­cider against the Roost­ers this Sun­day.

“We’ve had to earn [our vic­to­ries] each week, no team has given it to us, and we know we’ll have to be bet­ter again next week – but we’re all just hun­gry,” Ed­wards says.

“Our goal-line de­fence wasn’t good enough to­day, so we’ll work on that dur­ing the week and we’ll have to cut down our han­dling er­rors as well.”

TAL­ENT TO BURN It’s try time for full­back Dy­lan Ed­wards as reign­ing pre­miers Pen­rith surge into their sec­ond straight de­cider.

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