Argument for Knights captain Kalyn Ponga to be moved back to fullback to save him from more head knocks doesn’t add up




Newcastle Knights captain Kalyn Ponga lasted less than two minutes in his side’s heroic victory against Wests Tigers on Sunday at Leichhardt Oval.

It was an innocuous incident with Ponga attempting to tackle Wests Tigers youngster Asu Kepaoa who braced for impact which sent Ponga reeling from the tackle before crashing unconscious into the turf.

Another early shower after being sent from the field and missing the final minutes of Newcastle’s loss to the Warriors in Wellington last week.

His horror start to the season comes on the back of other head knocks and concussions in the last twelve months.

One of the greatest minds in rugby league, Phil Gould, had an interesting take on the Ponga situation on Channel Nine’s 100% Footy and it raises more questions than answers when it comes to Ponga’s future.

To be brutally honest, Ponga has struggled to take the next step in our game and drag the Knights back to some sort of relativity.

Ponga is on huge amounts of coin at Newcastle and you can’t begrudge his coach for wanting their best player and skipper involved in the game as much as humanly possible rather than him fading in and out of games at fullback.

Yes the Knights have shifted Ponga into the halves previously but that was under a different ,coach.

Newcastle need Ponga in the thick of it.

Gould’s comments make for tough listening for Knights fans.

If Adam O’Brien has to hide his greatest weapon from the game itself to keep him safe from head knocks – maybe it’s time to put Ponga’s health first.

That doesn’t mean putting him out the back and hope he doesn’t get another concussion when he does get the footy or he’s forced to make a tackle.

It means they need to have a serious conversation about his future.

“The people who coach him and work with him every day probably know best what position he should be playing,” Gould said on 100% Footy on Monday night.

“I don’t like to second-guess coaches for that reason.

“I just don’t understand the obsession these days with trying to move class fullbacks into the five-eighth position. Maybe because they can go and buy another fullback but they can’t go and buy another five-eighth. I just don’t know that’s the right position for him at the moment.”

Playing Ponga at fullback doesn’t stop the possibility of more concussions.

“I don’t see those knocks as anything over the top, that should be causing that sort of problem for him. It just seems now he reacts badly to collisions that are really quite easy and that’s not a good sign,” Gould continued.

“I think his career is in jeopardy, to be honest. I don’t know how you sort through that.

“I get concerned more at the ease with which they get concussed and how repeatedly that happens.”

Despite Newcastle’s gutsy first win of the year on the weekend, an NRL season is a long one.

There’s more important things than rushing Kalyn Ponga back into your team for a quick fix.

Especially so when there’s so much on the line for the human being involved.


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