Kalyn Ponga has shut down suggestions he could be moved to the halves to cover Mitchell Pearce for the Knights next season.
On his first day back at Newcastle pre-season training, the Queensland Origin star revealed he sat down with coach Adam O’Brien to lay out his hopes of retaining the No.1 shirt. 1 next season.
Perhaps the most dominant attacking weapon in the NRL, Ponga has long been hinted at for a permanent change in the halves where he would be closer to the ball.
He was launched as a solution to cover the departure of Pearce, who will change Super League next year, but the superstar full-back believes he has a lot more to offer in his preferred position.
“There were discussions but I put that aside,” Ponga told reporters on Wednesday.
“I had a discussion with Adsy and we finalized what I wanted to do and what we think is best for the team and now I’m pretty settled – I want to play back.
“I want to work my craft from the back, I still think I have a lot to do there, so for me it’s about being better in my position.”
The Knights have been linked with Luke Brooks and Scott Drinkwater as Pearce substitutes, but Ponga is confident the club has the cavalry to fill the half-back position at Adam Clune and Phoenix Crossland.
Newcomer Clune, who has 25 NRL caps for the Dragons, impressed early in the preseason winning many of the club’s fitness tests, while Crossland, 21, also turned heads during the season. of his 16 appearances for the club since his debut in 2019.
“These are massive shoes (Pearce’s) but it’s a chance for our younger boys to pull through, for them to shine,” added Ponga.
“I’ve had a bit to do with Clune and obviously Phoenix has been successful, he’s getting better every year, I’ve played with Cliffo (Clifford) and he’s going to get better too.
“We have good characters (and) we’re in a position where we want to work hard and be better.
“So I think it’s a healthy competition in halftime.”
While Pearce is a significant loss of field experience, in the coaching department, the arrival of big club and Immortal half-back Andrew Johns as a spine consultant has a lot on the overwhelming Hunter. anticipation.
Ponga has already had a few one-on-one sessions with Johns before officially starting the preseason and believes his club-wide impact next year will be “massive”.
“I’ve had two sessions with him already and just from those two sessions I can already feel the amount of detail, the attention and attention he has and the desire he has”, Ponga said.
“It’s pretty exciting for me and for the halves, the backbone, the forwards. He’s going to be great for us.
“He speaks for himself and I am delighted to be able to work with him.”
On Pearce, Ponga was sad to see such a mainstay of the club leave, but admitted it was the best decision for him.
“I’m happy for him. He will go there and I think for him, his personal life and his career, it’s a good choice. I’m excited for him,” he said.