AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 10: Kalyn Ponga of the Knights reacts during the round 22 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Newcastle Knights at Mt Smart Stadium on August 10, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

If social media is known for one thing, it is calm and well thought through responses to Rugby League.

As usual, after Friday night’s season-opening game of Rugby League, twitter and facebook are again right on the ball in their condemnation of Kalyn Ponga.

The 20-year-old fullback turn five-eighth had a below-par 40 (ish) minutes in a one-off game, playing with an unfamiliar side in a pre-season friendly.

Experiment over!

If I were a Knights fan I’d be looking for early bird Bali specials, cause the 2019 season is over before it even started.

/END SARCASM!

With the return of rugby league comes the return to over-reactive rugby league Twitter and Facebook.

The reaction to Ponga’s decent yet unspectacular game on Friday night was ridiculous yet utterly hilarious.

I’m usually the first to jump on the overreaction bandwagon. After an awful debut at five-eighth in round one in 2015, I wrote Anthony Milford off.

Tweeted that I thought Bennett had lost it by moving the star fullback into the halves.

Brisbane, of course, made the Grand Final that year on the back of a brilliant season in the halves by Milford.

He has since become one of the game’s elite five-eights and has games for Queensland in the halves.

Newcastle fans, needless to say, I wouldn’t be worried re Ponga’s switch into the halves based on one performance. I don’t think any level headed fan would be.

The Ponga move is going to take time. The 20-year-old has played his entire career at fullback, via his NRL debut in the outside backs to due injuries elsewhere.

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Darryn Lockyer didn’t become one of the game’s best ever five-eighths overnight following his shift from fullback, and he had many seasons experience on the Knights youngster.

I realise most of the criticism of Ponga from Friday night was tongue in cheek but there were some very real, and worrying, comments made across the social media platforms.

Some simply suggested Ponga’s best position was at fullback. Fair shout.

Others suggested that Ponga is wasting his talents with the move. Tad harsh.

Others even went as far as to suggest Ponga was obviously playing for a release to play rugby. Wish I had screen capped that one before it was deleted.

Off one game. In pre-season. With a side that had been practically thrown together following pre-season training.

I’m willing to call it now. Ponga will be a success in his move into the halves. He’s simply too talented not to. His game currently lends itself to a move into the halves.

That said, it will take time.

Calls that all he has to do is stay fit and he’ll win the Dally M medal seem a bit premature.

It could happen. He came within a game of winning last year’s medal in his first full season in the top grade. He missed a few games via injury too.

Ponga is on a fast track to becoming the face of the game. He comes across as very humble yet confident. The perfect mix for a superstar in the making.

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He had a brilliant Origin debut out of position for Queensland last year. He played hooker and lock and defended in the front line for the entire game.

He almost turned the momentum in the game and series, with his first real involvement.

You’d be far braver, and probably stupider, than myself (I think that makes sense) to write him off when it comes to a massive positional switch.

I personally think Newcastle are a far more dangerous side with Ponga and Pearce in the halves, just not right off the bat.

He could very well come out and blow the Sharks off the park in game one of the Newcastle season. Then again he may not.

Even if he has a shocker I’m a huge believer that the switch will pay huge dividends in the long-term.

Most Newcastle fans laughed off the criticism from Friday night.

With all due respect to Tyrone Roberts, he was best on the ground on Friday night in attack but I don’t see him in the top three or four options in the halves for the Titans. Underrated player, but this was a pre-season game.

Ponga has all the talent in the world and a very experienced, Premiership winning half by his side. He’s got some weapon centres and a monster forward pack.

I can’t see any way this move into the halves doesn’t pay off.

Then again he didn’t win the man of the match in a pre-season game. Sooooooo Newcastle should probably start booking Mad Monday ASAP.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Trouble is, you get a bright young player come along in the lower grades and then the media build him up and build him up until anyone would think he had won 3 premierships on his own and with one hand tied behind his back already.

    It happens every year and then the season gets going and everything settles back down. Some of those kids make it, others do not. Its all just media speculation.

    • Thing is, if he keeps fit and improving, Ponga will be that player. It’s up to Pearce to bring him on in the halves and protect him through the first half of the season, it’s up to the senior player, who is no slouch, to put the target squarely on himself, take the kicking duties, direct the forces, and allow the kid to adjust to the front line, he will succeed. Ponga will, with some help, bring it home strong in the back end of the season.

      Knights are no dark horse this year, they should replace the shaky warriors in the top eight.

  2. NRL fans are at best muppett’s, those on social media oygen thieves, who gives a flying toss what they think, they aren’t real fans.

  3. Besides that nice cutout pass he was very average… Obviously he is new to the position so see what happens in a few years time… this year will be a learning curve

  4. Couple of comments here hit the nail on the head.
    Ponga was lauded last year as the second coming – he could do no wrong – but he did, he made a lot of mistakes. His first 10 or so minutes on the Origin field was one mistake after another. It could often be seen in club games too. Now I’m not trying to rubbish the kid but these things were completely overlooked by the wearers of the rose-coloured glasses in the press and the public.
    There’s no question that he has potential but as has already been mentioned, he’s been publicised with so much hype, you can’t help but wonder if the kid is overplaying at times due to all that pressure. He has so much to live up to.
    Nathan Brown himself has been one of the worst offenders. Personally, I don’t believe he’s a good enough coach to bring out the potential in Ponga. Good coaches aren’t placed on performance based contracts.
    Ponga looked great in the Knights last year but never won any of the 11 games when Pearce was out. Did he just look great because he was so enthusiastic in an otherwise lacklustre team?
    Now Brown, and others, ask for patience while Ponga makes the transition to five eighth.
    I will watch with both interest and patience, but I think back to another young player with potential – one who played both five eighth and centre then asked to step in for the greatest fullback the game has seen. I’m talking Cameron Munster stepping in for Billy Slater. No one probably thought he could do it, but he didn’t miss a beat and helped his team to play off in the grand final.
    A great player can play anywhere. As Nathan Brown himself says, it’s just a matter of standing in a different position.
    I think Ponga has a long way to go but there’s always the danger of not making it if he’s overloaded with the enormous hype and expectations of others.
    It wish him luck.

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