Linnett dares Sharks to test Ponga

Kane Linnett has dared Cronulla to kick to North Queensland’s Kalyn Ponga in the NRL prodigy’s first game since April.

Ponga will play on the wing in a reshuffled Cowboys back line on Saturday night.

The 19-year-old has played six games this year – all at fullback – but has not been sighted at NRL level since round nine.

Ponga burst onto the scene in last season’s finals and will head to Newcastle on a big-money deal next season viewed as a future star.

Confident in the teenager’s ability, Linnett has challenged the Sharks to test him out.

“Hopefully they’re going to give him a few kicks; he returns the ball really well and he can get us on the front foot,” the centre said.

“He brings that X-factor on the wing and we know what he can do with his footwork and hopefully he can get in the clear.”

Despite his obvious talent, coach Paul Green has rarely called on the young star this season. Ponga has been toiling in the Holden Cup despite the Cowboys’ injury list growing every week.

“He’s been playing some good footy in the under-20s and knocking on the door and he’s happy he’s got an opportunity,” Linnett said.

“He needs to be really good for us on the weekend.”

Linnett will be joined by Javid Bowen in the centres, with Justin O’Neill facing a long spell on the sidelines after a nasty elbow injury last weekend.

Playmaker Te Maire Martin (knee) and fullback Lachlan Coote (ankle) will both be given until game day to prove their fitness.

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