Loyalty in League – A Lesson For Kalyn Ponga?

Kalyn Ponga with Dolphin Logo Behind Him
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

A Rugby League bombshell was dropped recently, with various reports suggesting that superstar Knights fullback Kayln Ponga met with Dolphins head coach Wayne Bennett, potentially moving to the NRL’s newest and seventeenth club on the cards. An honestly ridiculous notion given that the current season is just four games in! Something that I also believe to be highly disrespectful, regardless of whether Kayln was the one to initiate it or not.

Help build something proper at the Knights instead of jumping ship.

It is not a good look publicly for the Western Australia-born Attacker to be displaying, and it gives off a bad public perception of him. The fact is that the Hunter Valley-based franchise, his current club/employers, have only featured in the Top Eight twice over the last eight seasons, whilst it’s been twenty-one odd or so years since they last won a Premiership. His focus should be 100% fully on his current club and their pursuit of finals Footy glory, especially considering his side was bundled out of the first week of the finals last season, going down 28-20 to the Eels.

A humungous blunder, a fireable offence, and a singing Ponga no longer?

This debacle is so interesting that Kayln can become a free agent after this season, despite his current contract running until the end of 2024, as those final two years/campaigns are in his favour. Suppose he does decide at the end of this campaign that Newcastle aren’t the right fit for whatever reason and bounces. In that case, heads should roll for whoever was responsible for that colossal contractual stuff, allowing him to choose whether or not he departs the franchise early. If he is lost on a technicality like that, despite his less-than-ideal attitude, that could very well alter the on-field performances of the Knights for the next ten plus years. This kid is a prodigy and could be the next Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns of Newcastle. Ala is the next player that leads them into a decade of glory. Like Daly Cherry-Evans has achieved/continues to do at Manly or what Cameron Smith did with Melbourne, he is simply that good … again, despite his behaviour!

How the betrayal occurred

So why did all of this happen? Rumours have always followed Kayln around, a bit like a stray dog. It’s impossible to forget the myriad of occasions that he was linked to the All Blacks and Super Rugby. And it’s not at all difficult to understand why a player of his pedigree would be so in-demand all around the world of Rugby League/Union. However, based on these fairly damming pieces of evidence, it’s clear that the word contract means nothing to him and that loyalty isn’t a big part of who he is. This is just my judgement and my judgement alone! As good as he is and as talented as he is, he’s achieved nothing (at least when it comes to trophies and significant achievements) at Newcastle. Despite it being pretty clear how much the club values him, he’s currently on a reported 1.1 million dollars per season, which chews up a significant part of the Knights’ salary cap.

Kayln had a meeting with Newcastle where they put forward an offer to him, as did the Dolphins not too far away from the Knights. Whilst it’s being said that one staffing official at Newcastle who discovered it was ‘filthy’ and they’d have every reason to be. Then as per Nine Wide World of Sports, Kayln and his father, who also manages him, reached out and set up another meeting in Sydney with the Dolphins. As mentioned earlier, they’ve poured everything into Kayln and given him the best environment possible to succeed.

When ‘Mick’ Ennis calls you out, you’ve done something wrong!

As per Fox League, Andrew Johns said, “I think it’s poor form to fly to someone’s hometown while still playing to try and get them to go to their club next year or whenever.” And 274-game NRL veteran Michael Ennis called Kayln a waste of financial space. “1.3 million for Kayln Ponga. If you watched him play yesterday at Shark Park (referring to the Knights’ most recent 18-0 defeat to the Sharks), he was anything but a $1.3 million player.” Even legends of the game and those who have played it for an incredibly long time are calling him out for his actions, and I’m all here for it. It’s embarrassing, honestly, and the most impact he had on challenging Cronulla was his 104 run ms, while he made three un-called for errors. Meanwhile, he has zero tries, zero try assists, and zero line breaks on the season, as Newcastle possesses a points difference of zero. It’s not all down to him, but he is a significant part!

A spoilt brat contributing to a toxic situation

It’s not uncommon for these player/coach meetings to happen, along with players potentially wanting out of a current situation, but it DOES NOT make it right. To add a little more information to this story, Ponga was plucked from relative obscurity before playing for Newcastle, having played just nine games for the Cowboys over the 2016-17 season. He was a hell of a talent back then, but it doesn’t change the number of games he featured for North Queensland in.

Show some respect to the club that has helped turn you into today’s player. Loyalty in the National Rugby League works both ways, and Ponga isn’t showing much of anything to Newcastle, even out on the field. He comes across as entitled and has a ‘spoiled brat’ type attitude. My suggestion would be he pulls his head in and gets to work. But not everyone will like that or respect my opinion, and to that, I say meh, each to their own. Later on in the year, this will emerge as at least a somewhat volatile situation, mark my words. It’s quickly becoming toxic.


Toby is somebody who is a knowledgeable and passionate sports fan, but none more than the NRL. From a young age, he has been covering and supporting Australia’s greatest code. He has diplomas in both sports and business, while he loves a good laugh, some good food and travelling.

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