SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 02: Kalyn Ponga of the Knights in action during the round 13 NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Newcastle Knights at ANZ Stadium on June 2, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

It’s been over five years since rugby league unveiled their first million dollar man, a bloke by the name of Jonathan Thurston. And now, half a decade later, one of his former team mates could potentially become the first player to earn double that.

Kalyn Ponga has only played one full season in the NRL, but despite only being 20 years old, has already announced himself as one of the competition’s premier players.

In fact, the fullback-turned-five-eighth polled 27 Dally M points, finishing second place behind eventual winner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who finished the season with 29 points.

And Ponga played three games less than Tuivasa-Sheck in 2018.

With the NRL’s rich television deal, the salary cap has been increasing slowly but steadily over time.

When Thurston signed a contract in 2012 to become rugby league’s first seven figure earner, the salary cap stood $5.85 million for the 2013 season, the first year of Thurston’s million dollar contract.

That means in 2013, Jonathan Thurston was earning 17% of the club’s salary cap. He didn’t start earning seven figures until his 12th year in first grade.

With the 2020 salary cap set to increase to $9.8 million, a $2 million contract would equate to about 21% of a team’s salary cap.

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But Ponga is unlike any player we’ve seen in recent years.

While his breakout season will be remembered for the side steps, the speed, the 20 metre cut out passes produced consistently by a 20-year-old, there’s a different moment that stands out.

Ponga made his Queensland State of Origin debut in Game II of the series, coming off the bench. And while his attacking game was on song, it was his defence that elevated Ponga’s potential.

Normally playing fullback at club level, Ponga spent 50 minutes of Origin football playing at lock in the middle third. Fullbacks are only ever required to make five, six tackles a game.

Ponga was forced to make 30. And they weren’t ‘third man in’, their were one-on-one tackles. On props.

And when asked about the difference in intensity between club football and Origin football post game?

“I couldn’t feel a difference.”

The kid is something else. Simple as that.

Thurston didn’t even become a regular starter until he joined North Queensland in 2005, his fourth season in the NRL.

Ponga signed a five-year deal with Newcastle commencing in 2018, however it appears a portion of the contract is ‘player option’, meaning it’s entirely Ponga’s decision whether to activate those years.

And with his earning potential set to increase more and more from the estimated $600,000 he’s currently earning, there’s a fair chance he won’t activate those years.

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Rugby league contracts carry a different perception to what they did five years ago. When Thurston signed his first million-dollar contract, clubs based a players salary on the quality of the player at the time.

Now, clubs pay players based on what they estimate they’d be worth at the end of their contract. They pay for potential.

And with Ponga entertaining interest to switch codes and become an All Black, the Newcastle Knights, or another NRL club, need to act fast and ensure that Ponga remains in rugby league.

The NRL’s first $2 million contract will be history making, but with Ponga so talented at such a young age, he’s certain to create history in the sport. You can only imagine how much Ponga will have improved by the conclusion of his next long term contract.

You can only imagine that he’ll justify whatever price tag is written on that contract.


      • Not worth it and Ponga is a far cry from even earning 1one mil. Lets face it he is a 29 game rookie that has had a great year after his first full season. But hands up who has heard of the second year syndrome 💪.

        Personally I believe the media has put too much pressure on the kid and in the mean time coaches have done their homework on him. He is a marked man and in a new position at 5/8 next season this young kid I feel is being set up for a dud year. Even the great Lockyer learnt his trade at fullback and stayed in that position for half his career and won three comps before he was switched to 5/8. I think it could be a Bad move by Newcastle.

        • Hate to agree with you woodchook but you are right. I am aNewcastle fan but no way is he worth 2 mill yet. If he proves in a few years time that he can perform consistently to the level of Locky, then maybe. If he keeps making noises about playing rugby why would anyone pay 2 million for a contract he can easily break at any time. He seems like a talented , level headed kid but he is not a premiership winning match winner a la Johns, Lockyer, Thurston — yet.

  1. Bullsh!t! The game simply can’t support these hyperinflated salaries and NO player is worth that amount of money in terms of their impact on their team. Teams still win with or without their stars. It’s called guts and commitment and having a go as a TEAM!

    Seriously, with the focus by so many NRL players these days on the NFL I think they expect to receive the same paycheck as elite players in the NFL. It is an entirely different market with immense commercial opportunities and advertising revenue.

    The NRL is a goldfish in a bowl compared the the NFL whale in the ocean of USA. These players should get over themselves and realise that both they and their geedy agents are bankrupting clubs and holding the game to ransom. Meanwhile, they are already earning a fortune and more in 5 years than most people would earn in their entire working life.

    The game is breeding a generation of super rich brats who are robbing a game that was developed from the largely unpaid contribution of giants that paved the way for their success and these opportunistic parasites will be feasting off the carcass of the NRL long after it has died a slow death trying to support them.


    • Trust me, I KNOW. Jusr keep trying but edit any string that can be caught in the ZT net. Like, a$$, cir-C-U-M-stance, b00by prize etc. danielle has tested STD to death so that still works. 👍🏻

  2. One OK year in attack and he is now the 2 million dollar man.
    It’s a shame the game also requires players to make tackles.
    Ponga missed 1 out of every 3 tackles attempted, but hey who cares about that.

      • It makes them sh!thouse defensively at least if those stats represent actual missed tackles. Compare this to the defensive records of FBs like Slater, Inglis (without dodgy knees), Stewart and Boyd.

        • Majority of any fullbacks missed tackles would generally be when they cover defend and make contact with wingers/centres scoring in corners, therefore, inflating this count.

        • If true, then fair call. 👍🏻 Although I remember a few years back while Uate was playing for the Knights, Greg Inglis met Uate at full flight in a dark corner one night and CRUNCH! Lights out Uate, turn over of possession to Souths and Inglis wasn’t even breathing hard. Now THAT is what I call goal line defence from the toughest last line of defence the game has ever seen!

          Not the best custodian the game has ever seen but the toughest tommy, OK? I concede Billy Slater that much at least.

  3. Obviously wages should grow over time as the game garners more revenue but these increases need to be organic and aligned with the general growth and financial development of rugby league through increased TV broadcasting deals, sponsorship etc.

    Paying players exorbitant wages is all well and good when the team is performing on the field but what happens at the end of as cycle? If clubs aern’t sustaining themselves financially off the field than the facade of on field success can only provide a short term solution. This isn’t limited just to wages, obviously there are a plethora of other financial decisions which cause the demise of clubs,. Luckily the NRL is saved by the salary cap which makes it harder for Boards to run clubs into the ground so I can’t see this being as major of an issue as it in in European football where clubs have gone bankrupt through hedging financial growth against on field success and failed (Leeds United or Portsmouth anyone?).

    There will eventually be a $2 million player (because of inflation) but the growth to this wage needs to be organic. The exponential rise of wages in unsustainable in the long run for a game in which only one club turns a profit (Brisbane) whilst the others are either in the red or relying on their sports clubs for grants.

    • The clubs are paying these salaries though mate not the NRL. Remember, we aren’t talking about TPA’s funded by third parties we are talking about the salary cap which is funded by the clubs with minimal assistance from the NRL.

      I would be interested in knowing how many clubs are currently operating in the black and are capable of keeping up with an increasing salary cap and escalating player salaries that keep pace with inflation but not with the ever increading financial demands imposed on clubs that are struggling to keep out of the red and from going under.

      Perhaps that’s the plan? As several Sydney based clubs will be among the first to go leaving room for the NRL’s plans to expand the game nationally.

  4. I agree with Reg – the game is dying a slow death, as too is Foxtel. This whole article is based on the assumption that a strong monopolistic Foxtel can throw a stupid amount of money at the NRL, which I simply do not think will happen the next time the rights are discussed. Foxtel will not pay overs, so the NRL will not get a massive injection, and instead the NRL and clubs will have to learn to be lean in order to survive. Don’t get me wrong, these elite players absolutely deserve their pay-day, but I think there will be a correction in the ridiculous growth in player salaries in the coming years…

    • But the “usual suspects” use “STD” and “porn” without any trouble and then try to say it is only happening to me when at least half s dozen other people here are complain of having trouble as well. Writers privilege I guess. 😉

  5. The game has a long way to go, both with development and financially, before players can be on that kind of money. At the moment, there isn’t a club that would be prepared to throw that at him. It’s simply too high a proportion of the cap. Particularly the Knights, who are trying to build a squad to a premiership. You don’t win a premiership on one star player. Perhaps in time, with the increasing cap, it’ll happen. But at the moment in a game as comparitively small and backward as ours, no player is commercially worth that much money.
    Still, probably won’t stop a desperate team like Parra or Manly from throwing the books at him in a desperate bid for finals.

    • Good post mate. 👍🏻 You have NO idea how I struggled not to say something about the following…

      “there isn’t a club that would be prepared to throw that at him”

      Or this….

      “You don’t win a premiership on one star player.”

      Reg: No, you buy two players for $1 mill each instead of just one for $2 mill.

      But fortunately I resisted the temptation. What? Did I just say that out loud? 😂😂😂😂

  6. The kid just started his journey and they want to give him 2-million. Sure why not. He hasn’t proven anything. In fact, if you look at Origin Game 2, it was due to his error that NSW were able to score twice.

  7. @ Woody and coastal01

    danielle November 30, 2018 at 12:48 am
    Now, let’s get back to those treasured women in your life…
    Have they spent all night in the bathroom plucking themselves to your satisfaction?

    danielle November 30, 2018 at 12:48 am
    unlike him…STD_1970

    Is THIS the sort of person that you really want to associate yourself with? You don’t want to catch the disease she is carrying believe me. It will eat you alive from the inside and make you too a social outcast just like she is.

  8. 2 million……….yeah right. Lucky to be on 600k let alone 2 million. Plenty of other players worth more than Ponga in my opinion. RTS, Cleary, Munster just to name a few………let’s see what he’s achieved in the next few years before pronouncing him the greatest!

  9. Didn’t do a whole lot when Pearce was out, nor did Newcastle win many games

    He’ll be playing Union in 2020 anyway

  10. Zero tackle, Why are you allowing these disgusting personal attacks on against family members of people posting on this site? Especially as it involves an 8 year old girl. Please do something about this NOW! And remove Danielle from this site permanetly!

    • Zer0 T@ck1le

      It’s hard to understand why you (ZT) are turning a blind eye against such vile personal atracks against women and children. You have even remained silent when references to “child porn” are posted even after “Slammin Sam” and myself have complained about this.

      Why do you continue to protect this vile profile “danielle” who posts such disgusting attacking diatribes and is able to boast that she has NEVER been banned? Is “she” a ZT employee?

      Also WHY are such vile comments permitted while I can’t post Zer0 T@ck1le in full without my post being blocked by the ZT filter? How can I call for you to adjudicate on this garbage in that case? Or is THAT the idea?

      You have asked us to report these comments and you (ZT) will investgate but for years now this cunning tr0ll has hidden these offensive posts nested 3 replies deep from the original where the is NO “report comment” option.

      Virtually NO ONE here even acknowledges her presence here because her reputation is well known and people here want nothing to do with her. Please BAN this vile serial pest PERMANENTLY! She has NEVER contributed anything positive to this site and has only caused trouble.

      • Well Penso agrees with Danielle or he wouldn’t attack me. Danielle had a fun banter jibe at me and Penso jumped on board and attacked me beyond imagination. Poor Reg you feel you are being persecuted by a girl 👩I’m getting belted up by a rabbit.🐓🤺🐇

        • Woody, I am trying to reply to you but this sites continued bias against me in favour of a ZT employee and writer for this site keeps preventing my post going up so I will try to do this in several parts…. AGAIN!

        • @ Woody (Part 1)

          Woody, you need to look at the history and the bigger picture mate. Have you ever seen penso either attack your family or anyone else here on this site? Or me either for that matter? I don’t even “fight fire with fire” attacking danielle or her family or her as a mother out of spite even though she has repeatedly done this with me.

          If you had been on this site a few years back, like many here have, you would KNOW what I am talking about. Why do you think that NO ONE ELSE here gives her the time of day except for the occasional random who takes a swing at me and gets K.O.’ed and then tries to find safety in numbers with another fringe dweller? I will give credit where credit is due though that “crickets” has not renewed his association with this vile tr0ll following her repeated personal attacks against my wife and 8 year old daughter. By putting existing differences between us aside in doing so shows a measure of class that the tr0ll danielle simply cannot comprehend as she continues to vomit her vile abuse and personal attacks on this site.

        • @ Woody (Part 2)

          There is a world of difference mate between attacking a profile directly on this site and attacking their wider family. There is also a world of difference between posting an extremely ambiguous and subtle jibe “how’s the front yard” (the relayed/repeated words of someone else by the way) and being overly explicit and vulgar. Like the following for example…

          danie11e November 30, 2018 at 1:05 am
          @penso, …people LIKE YOU, swallow his discharge like gospel.
          You need to stop swallowing, Penso.

          Hiding behind what she would have called in the past a h0m0ph0bic reference like that which was clear and intentional and unambiguous and then reference the word “discharge” which in this context would offend most REAL women just exposes danie11e as the vilest hyp0crite and tr0ll that this site has EVER seen.

        • @ Woody (Part 3 – Final)

          Like I said Woody, choose but choose wisely. If you take the wrong pill there is no turning back and the “Banter Train” will continue on without you. Either that or I will call it a day and leave this site for good (no bluff, no joke) and let this tr0ll celebrate a victory that has been made possible ONLY by the continued silence of others on this site who are disgusted by her abusive crude personal attacks and inability to contribute ANYTHING substantial or worthwhile to this site yet have remained silent in the face of this.

        • “Have you ever seen penso either attack your family or anyone else here on this site?”

          Should read:

          Have you ever seen penso either attack your family or anyone else’s family here on this site?

  11. Newcastle, Gold Coast, Roosters can all afford the 2 million per year. Then they will still have room in their cap to buy many more players surely.. 👍 They can just say, we got him way cheaper than the 2 million predicted. When they really paid overs. Those TPA’s are always useful as well.

      • Hate to break it to you Woody but were ALL born with one. Weren’t you? Was yours missing when you hatched? 🥚🐣🐤

        Were you able to grow one instead in chicken manure? 🐓💩🧠

        • Up above WoodChook is complaining about being attacked personally by a Rabbit . When he enjoys some of the other banter.
          All I did was post a bit of a comment about those clubs that we all know are the over spenders.
          So what does the Woody reply with? Just some dumb personal insult..
          I’d say it’s hard to complain about any attack on yourself, if dumb insults are all you have, in reply to any post.

  12. How about these 2 drama queens ??
    😆😆 Reg and Penso, you are the worst type of hypocrites with you support for holmsey after what he has said about players families in the past.
    You try to drag in and threaten a funny old guy named woody who just wants to banter about footy and enjoy his senior years as a WINNER.
    Reg, you have been on Danielles case ever since she stood up to you and MW (54-0) when you both tried to bully her.
    Lets get back to the footy and how bad soufths and manly have handled the coach thing.

    • Panthers3 your a wise man and a top bloke, 👍 Good on ya son. Soufths are doomed🤣😂😀😆😁🤣😂😀😆😁🤣😂😀😆😁🤣🤣🤣😂😂😂Doomed I say😂😂🤣🤣😁

      • Oh Woody, you get played too easy. At least now we know the answer to the age old mystery…

        “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

        Because he was tricked by a hungry tr0ll with bird seed because they wanted a chicken dinner.

        Careful Woody. Christmas is coming and people are on the lookout to dress a bird on their plate for Christmas lunch! If you are so easily fooled and are not more discerning, pretty soon you’ll be “plucked”. 🍗🍗

      • What makes you think Panthers3 is a man, he is mychookcar according to other people on this site and no doubt a women with her feminist views, if not then Woodys boyfriend

        • penso, I wouldn’t lump Woody in with a chicken thief who is masquerading as a panther (my🐓my🚗”).

          Remember mate Woody hasn’t attacked us personally unlike the harpy queen, Casper “the inappropriate” ghost.

          I have a feeling this Christmas there will piñatas enough for everyone to have a crack. Just be patient and don’t scare the chickens. Remember, we are looking for a fox in a panther suit! 🦊

    • Have the balls to reveal who you really are instead of hiding your tribal allegiance, as screaming has revealed, behind a misleading handle. Clearly you are no genuine Panthers supporter.

      I have seen and assessed your contributions to this site and found you wanting. You are a chump and a stooge and if you have no idea of danielle’s history as a tr0ll and a hypocrite on this site best that you shut your mouth before you embarrass yourself further.

      At present I don’t have a Christmas piñata for this year. I busted K-e-f-e open last year and revealed that even though, like you, they were full of bluster and sh!t at face value inside they were empty. If you want to volunteer for the position by siding with a known tr0ll who has attacked my wife and 8 year old daughter I will be more than happy to make it my mission to send you to the “tr0ll graveyard” like so many other wamnabe big mouths before you. Your call.

    • Is he though? He was voted “Players choice MVP” this year and coming from the people that play the game that is probably worth more to a player than the Dally M medal. Remember, he achieved this along with debuting for QLD in SOO at just 20 years old in his 1st full year in the NRL. Not too shabby now is it? He will only get better from here as well but NO WAY is he worth that sort of ridiculous money. He should be happy and grateful to get an upgrade to $850K at most (which is on par with Boyd Cordner the NSW captain).

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