Massive Maroons blow as Ponga ruled out
Kalyn Ponga has been officially ruled out of State of Origin.
The star Newcastle fullback has withdrawn from the Queensland squad due to a shoulder injury that will require surgery.
It is yet another blow for the battling Maroons who have already lost Kyle Feldt, Corey Oates, Michael Morgan, Moses Mbye, Anthony Milford, Ash Taylor and David Fifita to injury.
Valentine Holmes is also unavailable for game one because of a suspension.
'I'm your man': Titans star prepared for Maroons SOS
Gold Coast star AJ Brimson has declared he is ready for an Origin baptism of fire in Queensland's No. 1 jersey as Wayne Bennett backed the Titans dynamo to fire for the Maroons.
Brimson is the favourite to start at fullback for the Maroons with Newcastle gun Kalyn Ponga ruled out of the series with a shoulder injury.
Ponga is the latest Queensland player to join a bursting casualty ward already containing David Fifita, Michael Morgan, Kyle Feldt, Moses Mbye and Valentine Holmes (suspended).
The Blues are settled with coach Brad Fittler targeting a third straight series win and having few injury concerns.
Queensland has gone from an embarrassment of riches to scrambling for players to fill a 27-man squad ahead of entering the Origin "bubble" on October 25.
While his NRL form had been patchy, Ponga is considered to be a key cog of the Maroons set-up and his absence is a blow to Queensland's depth.
But Brimson is waiting in the wings.
The Titans fullback was the NRL's form player in the back end of the season after overcoming a fractured spine suffered in the Perth Nines, which saw him miss the first 11 games of the 20-round competition.
Brimson, 22, made 13 line breaks and scored seven tries in nine games, including two spectacular efforts in a final round masterclass against Newcastle where he beat Ponga twice with scintillating speed and footwork.
Brimson has continued training to remain fit for a maiden Origin campaign and said he was ready to replace Ponga if needed.
"That would be amazing, I'm ready," he told The Courier-Mail.
"I genuinely hope Kalyn can play and does play, because as a proud Queenslander we definitely need him.
"If not, I would love the opportunity but I'm not getting ahead of myself."
Bennett said he was excited to coach Brimson following the talent he showcased this season.
"AJ is a real talent," Bennett said.
"He is in great form, he is in the squad so I'm looking forward to working with him.
"I have been watching AJ through the year, he's played against us (South Sydney) in the past, he's been very good."
Brimson was originally being viewed as a bench utility for the Maroons given his versatility and impact he could provide from the interchange.
But Ponga's injury has opened the door for him to slot in the No. 1 jersey and he is doing all he can to be ready if needed in Adelaide on November 4.
"I've done a couple of running and gym sessions," he said.
"I'd usually have a fortnight off, but it's been a weird year and I've only played nine games so my body's not that sore. I've been trying to stay fit.
"I've been training with Phil Sami, doing a couple of runs at the club."
Originally published as Massive Maroons blow as Ponga ruled out