Coach counting on Ponga, company to win against Brisbane
COACH Adam O’Brien knows Kalyn Ponga is the man he can build his tenure around at Newcastle, as the Knights prepare to face Brisbane who are desperate to avoid a fourth straight loss.
Ponga will return to the field against the Broncos tonight (7.50pm kick-off) for the first time since inking a new four-year deal that will keep him at the Knights until the end of 2025.
The match against Brisbane shapes as a big one for Newcastle, with O’Brien to discover how they bounce back from their first loss this season.
But off the field, he has already had a big win this week.
Ponga’s news couldn’t have been any better for rookie coach O’Brien.
“There are children running around the backyard commentating that they’re Kalyn Ponga,” he said.
“The most exciting thing is we get to keep working together for four years as part of our organisation.
“I know he has a real thirst for getting better each day.”
Ponga has been electric so far this season for the Knights, and has the potential to tear Brisbane apart.
He has scored three tries and set up another four in just four games this year, doing his best work on the left edge.
It’s there he and Bradman Best have been running riot, the side where the Knights have scored 12 of their 22 tries.
That in itself is a concern for the Broncos who at least have Alex Glenn and Tevita Pangai Jr returning, given their opposing right edge defence is the worst in the competition.
Ponga could easily have been on the other side of the field tonight, in a Broncos team that would no doubt be sitting much prettier than 1-4 if he was in it.
The holder of a Broncos scholarship as a 13-year-old, Ponga soon after knocked back long-term interest from Brisbane as a teenager.
“I was there when I was young … I would have been happy to put a jersey on for anyone at that age,” Ponga said.
He ultimately chose North Queensland as his destination as a 15-year-old, knocking back interest from several other clubs and sporting codes.
And then when he arrived at Newcastle in 2018, they were a team who had just received their third straight wooden spoon.
Now, he’s aspiring to join the 1997 and 2001 premiership winners at the club during the period of his new deal. – AAP