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Ponga rejects Dolphins to re-sign at Knights until end of 2027, now the real hard work begins



Now that Kalyn Ponga has finally inked a contract extension, proved his loyalty to the club, removed any trace of get-out clauses, the real hard work begins – showing he’s worth the multimillion-dollar investment.

Ponga has restored his public image with Knights fans by turning his back on the big dollars offered by the Dolphins to stay at the club which took a chance on him five years ago when he was just a young Cowboy with potential.

But he is now 24, entering what should be the prime of his career, and expectations will be sky-high.

Anyone who’s seen him play games such as his memorable debut in the State of Origin arena in 2018 when he was thrown into the fray as a roaming lock will know he has elite ability.

But he has not delivered that class on a consistent level at Newcastle. Too often he’s not been involved enough or sidelined with injuries.

He only needs to consult Maroons teammate David Fifita at the Titans to get a gauge on the intense scrutiny that comes with being the marquee player on massive coin every week. If you don’t deliver the epitome of top-shelf value every week, there will be no shortage of critics ready to cut the tall poppy down.

Ponga said at his media conference on Wednesdy afternoon it was a proud moment to announce his contract extension “on my terms, our terms” as he glanced left and right at his dad Andre, coach Adam O’Brien and general manager Danny Buderus.

When asked if he felt pressure to rush out the announcement in light of the recent media circus surrounding his contract negotiations, he said: “I’ve sore of known what I was gonna do for a little while now. Sitting here now is a little bit surreal

“Sitting here now is actually pretty surreal. I think if you look back over the last four years, even since when I came to the Knights, I have had questions about what I am doing.

“I’ve never felt rushed in my decision. I have never felt like I wasn’t making a decision on my terms. I’ve always been patient and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that.

“Now that I sit here I wasn’t rushed or pressured. I have been content with my decision for a little while now and I’m grateful I get to make it on my terms.”

He had been heavily criticised for meeting Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett recently and for the growing influence of his father Andre, which had caused tension with the Knights heirarchy.

Kalyn Ponga in action for Newcastle Knights

(Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Ponga was contracted until the end of 2024 but had an option in his deal to leave, which was originally included to allow him to pursue a potential switch to rugby union, another source of frustration for Newcastle fans and fuel for them to question how sincere he was about getting the team back into premiership contention.

The new deal removes all existing options and clauses from the current contract.

He had earlier told teammates of his decision and thanked them for letting him sort out his playing future without interference and they gave him a rousing round of applause.

The Knights officially signed Anthony Milford earlier in the day after the former Broncos star’s contract was registered for the rest of the season. He is banned until Round 11 due to charges from an off-field incident in Brisbane last September.

Anthony Milford

Anthony Milford (NewcastleKnights.com.au)

Ponga, who has been hampered by hamstring and knee injuries last season and earlier this year, has had his form questioned and whether he was indeed worthy of the megabucks Newcastle were throwing his way.

Heading into Sunday’s home clash with Parramatta. The Knights dropped to 11th place with a 2-4 record after their upset loss at the hands of St George Illawarra in Wollongong last Sunday.

“I have been here for four years and I have worked hard to get to this position. The people that are on board within these walls, they’ve probably made me want to stay,” he said.

“I just see the vision of the club, where the club is moving, everyone that’s involved and how many people are working hard to win. Really we all have the same goal at the moment and that’s to win and I don’t want to walk away from that.

“I want to be at the front end of that. I want to steer that and I want to do it for the next five years.”

Ponga, who was made Newcastle’s captain this season after Jayden Brailey tore his Achilles before the trials, has made 78 appearances for the Knights since joining the club in 2018 following nine matches across two seasons at North Queensland.

With Ponga remaining at the Knights for the next five seasons, the Dolphins’ best chance of landing a current representative star is Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster, however Melbourne announced last week they would not entertain an early release from his deal for next year even if he asked for one.



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