Kalyn Ponga showed that he has plenty to learn as a playmaker as he failed to fire in his first hit-out for New Zealand Maori in their clash with the Indigenous All-Stars.
The 20-year-old, who is set to switch from fullback to five-eighth for Newcastle in the NRL this season, had his first taste of front-line action at AAMI Park.
While it was hard to get a true read with his side often on the back foot in the 34-14 loss, Ponga looked rattled at times.
He made uncharacteristic errors, dropping balls and throwing an intercept pass, while he also missed an important tackle on James Roberts.
Maori coach Stacey Jones said it was difficult for Ponga to settle in as he'd agreed not to play the young star for the whole game following his post-season ankle surgery
"We had to manage his game time - he had a disrupted pre-season so I'd been talking to them and that asked us to take care of him," Jones said post-match.
"He was probably the player we needed tonight to be in the game for the whole way and it disrupted us a little as far as the fluency went."
Jones said he saw enough of Ponga to recognise he was going to be success in the new role.
Ponga, who finished runner-up in last year's Dally M count, can also rely on a more experienced halves partner at the Knights in Mitchell Pearce while in the Maori team he was paired with another rookie in Jahrome Hughes.
"There's some stuff there - you know he's going to be a wonderful player," Jones said.
Immortal Andrew Johns, who was commentating on the match, was gushing in his praise despite the faltering performance.
"If he stays injury free he'll win the Dally M," Johns said.
Australian Associated Press