Kalyn Ponga of the Knights looks on during the NRL elimination final
Kalyn Ponga of the Knights looks on during the NRL elimination final

Matty’s crucial question for $4.4m stud

Matty Johns has claimed Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga is at a crossroads in his career and could make the shift to five-eighth within the next two years to go to another level.

Likening the juncture to where Brad Fittler and Darren Lockyer found themselves during periods in their careers, Johns said Ponga had to decide whether he could knuckle down and kick on to the next level.

After a brief flirtation with the No. 6 role under Nathan Brown last season Ponga has reverted to fullback ever since.

He had an afternoon to forget on Sunday when the Knights were dumped out of the finals at the hands of South Sydney in a 46-20 shellacking.

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It was the story of the season for the Knights - and arguably Ponga too - with a good performance being followed by a poorer one.



"Kalyn's hit that Fittler junction," the former Newcastle playmaker said on the Matty Johns Podcast.

"He's hit at a point in his career where you go: what are you going to be? Are you just going to be a flashy brilliant player who's going to supply little moments of magic?

"Or are you going to move into the sphere of being a great leader?

"I think he's got another year at No. 1 and then maybe look to put him into the No. 6. Lockyer and Fittler are the best examples of going that way (towards greatness).

"I reckon in professional sport these days where everything is about highlight reels. The most underestimated word, and it's a boring one is 'consistency'. That's what the good sides have, but Newcastle were so radically different week to week."

Ponga is one of Newcastle's highest-paid players, signing a $4.4 million deal to remain at the Knights until the end of 2024. But The Daily Telegraph's Paul Kent said he wasn't playing to level which reflected his pay cheque.




"He was missing on the weekend," Kent said.

"For a bloke who's such an important part of their team their success, he didn't deliver and I know he's carrying an injury.

"The good ones they tell you how they want the ball that's one thing Fittler did.

"He told whoever was playing halfback this is how I want the ball and when I want the ball.

When you have a salary cap and can only spend the same amount of money on your players as the best players, that consistency is what you're paying for.

"For someone like Ponga, the Knights aren't paying Ponga to be brilliant one in every three weeks, the money he's getting he needs to contribute to the result every weekend. That's the most important thing in his dossier."


Moment Knights' season turned?: NRL: Kalyn Ponga's dropped bomb is what Steve Roach believes was the turning point for the Newcastle Knights in their loss to South Sydney.



Originally published as Matty's crucial question for $4.4m stud