NRL Elimination Final - Rabbitohs v Knights
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 04: Kalyn Ponga of the Knight looks on during the NRL Elimination Final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Newcastle Knights at ANZ Stadium on October 04, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A poor elimination final performance has raised questions about the direction that Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga’s career takes from here.

His side was eliminated by the South Sydney Rabbitohs 46-20 in the opening week of the finals.

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NRL great Matty Johns has insisted that Ponga is in a similar position to where Brad Fittler and Darren Lockyer were in similar periods of their careers.

In season 2019 under Nathan Brown, Ponga was tried in the No.6 role but quickly moved back to the fullback position for 2020.

A lack of consistency throughout the year followed the Knights into their finals series, having never really shown up on the weekend.

Speaking on the Matty Johns Podcast, the Newcastle legend believes Ponga must ask himself if we wants to became a truly great leader or just another flashy star.

“Kalyn’s hit that Fittler junction,” Johns said on the Matty Johns Podcast.

“He’s hit at a point in his career where you go: what are you going to be? Are you just going to be a flashy brilliant player who’s going to supply little moments of magic?

“Or are you going to move into the sphere of being a great leader?

“I think he’s got another year at No. 1 and then maybe look to put him into the No.6. Lockyer and Fittler are the best examples of going that way [towards greatness].

“I reckon in professional sport these days where everything is about highlight reels. The most underestimated word, and it’s a boring one is consistency. That’s what the good sides have, but Newcastle were so radically different week to week.”

The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Kent said the Knights fullback was not living up to the amount he has paid, with Ponga being one of the highest-paid players at the club.

“He was missing on the weekend,” Kent said.

“For a bloke who’s such an important part of their team their success, he didn’t deliver and I know he’s carrying an injury.

“The good ones they tell you how they want the ball that’s one thing Fittler did.

“He told whoever was playing halfback this is how I want the ball and when I want the ball.

“When you have a salary cap and can only spend the same amount of money on your players as the best players, that consistency is what you’re paying for.

“For someone like Ponga, the Knights aren’t paying Ponga to be brilliant one in every three weeks, the money he’s getting he needs to contribute to the result every weekend. That’s the most important thing in his dossier.”


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