Knights adamant Ponga talks are on track

Scott Bailey |

Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien insists negotiations with Kalyn Ponga remain on track, denying a report that a contract extension had been pulled from the table.

The star fullback had easily his best game of the season in the Knights’ controversial 21-16 loss to St George Illawarra on Sunday, scoring one try and setting up another.

But it came in the shadow of claims he was set to depart the club, with the Daily Telegraph reporting an extension for the club’s biggest name had been withdrawn.

Ponga has a contract with Newcastle for the next two years, but has an option to leave at the end of this season if he wishes.

The Knights are believed to be attempting to extend that deal well beyond the end of 2024, with Ponga due to make a call before round 12.

O’Brien laughed off the claims, pointing to confusion over the fact the club had also been linked to Cameron Munster.

“It has never been brought up to me once as the head coach (that the contract has been pulled),” O’Brien said. 

“Absolutely news to me, as far as I know. Our CEO (Phil Gardner) isn’t even in the country, he’s in Hawaii.

“I think they’re still going through their process, both sides. Kalyn’s management and the Knights. Things are tracking along there..”

Ponga was also adamant he had the right to take his time on his decision.

“I know what I’m feeling, but that is between me and my management,” Ponga said. 

“I know you guys want to know what I am doing. 

“I hope you guys respect that I want to make this decision on my terms and announce it on my terms. So that’s what I will do.”

Regardless, Ponga at least showed he was not distracted by the ongoing negotiations on Sunday.

Poor by his standards in the previous two weeks since coming back from a knee injury, the 24-year-old was clearly the Knights’ best on Sunday.

He set up their first try when he bounced and stepped his way through the line for Enari Tuala to score, and bagged one of his own after a Bradman Best bust.

“I think he showed tonight why he is worth the wait,” O’Brien said.

“With the short turnarounds, four in a row (the knee) would have been bothering him absolutely. 

“You are getting over a game and I don’t want to push him too hard at training to be with the team and connect. 

“But his performance today, I thought he was by far the best player on the field.”