The Newcastle Knights are fuming after co-captain Kalyn Ponga was removed from the field by the independent doctor with 12 minutes to play in their season opener against the Warriors.

Trailing just 14-12 at the time, Ponga collided with New Zealand prop Addin Fonua-Blake and bounced back to his feet, however it didn't stop referee Chris Sutton sending the five-eighth for a head injury assessment at the request of the independent doctor.

Despite having a history of concussion, Ponga didn't show any extreme symptoms on the field after the clash, and was visibly puzzled by the decision to remove him from the field while the game was in the balance.

The former fullback is adamant he wasn't concussed, especially after experiencing so many head knocks late last year.

“It will be interesting to see their take on it, I have been knocked out before and definitely wasn't in any state,” Ponga said in the post-match press conference.

“I couldn't believe it, 10 minutes to go, game on the line, I am literally fine, I think there's an assessment that normally goes on but I got taken off by an independent doctor.

“It caught me by surprise, I said to the ref ‘I'm not going off', but it's not his call, it is someone in a box.”

With a HIA requiring a minimum period of 15 minutes before being re-injected into a game, heading up the tunnel in the 69th meant the end of Ponga's night. The Warriors scored the match-winner through Wayde Egan minutes later, and escaped with a 20-12 victory.

A club doctor usually performs an on-field test running through concussion symptoms before deciding if a HIA is required, however the independent doctor can override that process and remove the player from the field.

“I did it in the tunnel but it is a ten minute process, but there's usually a process on the field where they check your balance,” Ponga said.

“But that wasn't the case because it was an independent doctor in a box somewhere, came straight off.”

Newcastle Knights Training Session
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 06: Adam O'Brien coach of the Newcastle Knights during a Newcastle Knights NRL training session at Newcastle on February 06, 2020 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Head coach Adam O'Brien was clearly frustrated at the process.

“There was a minute to go, so it ruled him out of the game,” O'Brien said.

“But he was unaware of any incident, like he said, he knows what they feel like.

“And we've worked really hard, he has to get himself back in the game and now we are jumping at shadows to get him out of the game, I don't get it.”

Newcastle have a nine-day turnaround before their Round 2 clash against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval, meaning Ponga and the also-concussed Tyson Frizell should be free to partake in the contest.