‘Failure to release Ponga early could be a blessing for Knights’

By Greg Prichard
January 6, 2017

NEWCASTLE would have loved to have had Kalyn Ponga at the club in time for this season, but coach Nathan Brown is adamant the fact the teenage sensation will play out the final year of his contract with North Queensland means it is still a win-win situation for the Knights.

Brown says Ponga, 18, can’t help but become a better player with another season of learning the ropes in a first-grade squad that includes superstar Johnathan Thurston and several other current Test players in Matt Scott, Michael Morgan and Justin O’Neill.

Ponga will join Newcastle in 2018 on a four-year deal reportedly worth $700,000 per season.

“I was never confident North Queensland would let him go,” Brown says.

“They’re in a situation where they would fancy themselves as winning the premiership and while Kalyn is only young and only started playing first grade last year I would’ve thought he’d be a player they see as playing a reasonable amount of games and helping them win games.

“If he had been able to come it would’ve been great, but on the other hand he gets to stay in North Queensland and play with Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and those great Queensland players, so for his development if he comes to us next year off the back of playing X amount of games with those guys that’s great for us.

“If he had come this year and played with all the young guys he’s going to be playing with for years to come that would’ve been great as well, but it’s a bit of a win-win situation for us and I believe he’s training very well up there, which is what you would expect.”