Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
It is crazy to think that at just 24 years old Kalyn Ponga is set to embark on his eighth season in the NRL.
Following two seasons of sporadic appearances at the North Queensland Cowboys Ponga joined the Newcastle Knights on a monster deal for his age and is now set for what could be the most important season of his career to date.
The Knights captain re-signed with the club until the end of 2027 just under one year ago and is set to take the next step in his career.
Since moving to Newcastle in 2018 Ponga has had a couple of very strong individual seasons but that can’t be said about the Knights as a whole.
Granted Newcastle made their return to the finals in 2020 and then finished in the top eight in 2021 but in both campaigns they were eliminated in the first week and are yet to win a finals game since 2013.
There is only so much Ponga can do at fullback and it is evident that Adam O’Brien is looking to allow his captain to have a much more profound impact on his side by moving him into the halves.
Ponga has played in the halves for the Knights before and failed under Nathan Brown in 2019.
However, Ponga was much less experienced then and was nowhere near ready to make such a leap with the question now being whether or not he is at the right stage in his career to move to five-eighth.
The Knights recent acquisition of Jackson Hastings should make this transition at least a little easier for Ponga but there is a lot of pressure on the Queensland State of Origin representative to make this work because at this point it won’t be enough if Ponga is playing well but Newcastle are not getting desired results.
In recent seasons Ponga’s detractors have become much more vocal whether warranted or not but this could be the year where he silences them for good, but if he fails to make this move to five-eighth and help lead the Knights to a successful 2023 then it could tarnish his legacy forever.