Star’s foot damage adds injury to insult for Knights

Murray Wenzel |

Kalyn Ponga’s latest injury scare has compounded Newcastle’s 36-12 loss to Canterbury.
Kalyn Ponga’s latest injury scare has compounded Newcastle’s 36-12 loss to Canterbury.

Newcastle’s NRL woes have been compounded by a potentially long-term foot injury for star fullback Kalyn Ponga in a limp 36-12 loss to Canterbury.

Less than a year after thrashing the Bulldogs 66-0, the Knights were on the receiving end on Sunday in a Sydney thumping.

Bulldog Bronson Xerri scored his first try since 2019 in his comeback from a four-year drug ban and Ponga, already battling a hip injury, limped off and will have scans on a potentially serious ligament injury in his foot.

Drama came after the siren too, with the NRL set to investigate an incident in the tunnel where Jack Hetherington appeared to shape up to Reed Mahoney after the pair were sin-binned in a niggly final few minutes.

The result improved the new-look Bulldogs to 3-4 while the Knights – fifth after the regular season last year – fell to 2-5 after another late selection call failed to spark them.

Stephen Crichton.
Canterbury were dominant against the Knights, with Stephen Crichton among the try-scorers. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“Me, players, staff, everyone; we’re hugely disappointed,” Knights coach Adam O’Brien said.

“I didn’t forsee any of this … didn’t see it coming. We’re playing like a frustrated footy team.”

Ponga, hoping to return to the State of Origin fray for Queensland this year, has battled through a hip injury this season and was in obvious pain when returning for the second half.

He eventually limped off for good and stepped into a moon boot after Bulldogs utility Bailey Hayward raced from nowhere to plant an in-goal grubber under the Newcastle co-captain’s nose.

O’Brien said early advice from his medical team was that Ponga’s injury was “relatable to a Lisfranc” fracture that is usually a long-term injury.

“Nothing to do with the hip pointer; it’s in the foot, a ligament in the foot.

Daniel Saifiti is tackled by Josh Curran (L) and Viliame Kikau.
Bulldog bite: Daniel Saifiti is tackled by Josh Curran (L) and Viliame Kikau. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“As far as I know it’s pretty rare, so not great signs for us. It’s not good, we’ll find out (more) tomorrow.”

Josh Addo-Carr flew expertly to score in the right corner and seal the contest with more than 20 minutes left as the Bulldogs prevailed despite losing forward Chris Patolo (knee) early in the first half.

Newcastle made a late personnel move by demoting five-eighth Jack Cogger to the NSW Cup and bringing Tyson Gamble back into the starting side to partner halfback Jackson Hastings.

Their fourth halves change in seven games –  that pair began the season together – amounted to little though, as the Knights’ kicking game was easily trumped by the boot of Bulldogs playmaker Matt Burton.

Dylan Lucas scored for Newcastle off a flat Gamble pass but Greg Marzhew knocked on from the restart and Xerri, back in the NRL this year after a positive test for testosterone in November 2019, had the instant reply.

Key off-season signing Stephen Crichton added some flourish to the occasion when he completed a wonderful team try down the right flank.

“We’re learning along the way and today was a culmination of a big seven weeks for us,” Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo said.  

Tempers flared in the final minutes, with Hetherington eventually sin-binned and Mahoney joining him after he cheekily waved the Knights forward goodbye.

“It was the longest last four minutes of any game I’ve seen,” Ciraldo said. 

“I don’t think it’s (the tunnel exchange) too serious; Jack’s a good fella.”