Kalyn Ponga ‘will reject huge Dolphins offer to stay with Knights for up to $1.2MILLION a season’ in deal lasting up to five years – in another big blow to Wayne Bennett
- Ponga is set to announce his new contract with the Knights this week
- It is a major blow for Bennett’s Dolphins who are struggling to attract talent
- Cameron Munster and Reece Walsh loom as likely targets for the Dolphins
- It also ends speculation Ponga could defect to rugby union for a World Cup tilt
The Newcastle Knights appear to have won the tug-of-war over Kalyn Ponga, with the star fullback set to ink a long-term deal that would leave new franchise the Dolphins still battling to secure a marquee player.
Following reports that Ponga had met with Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett, Dolphins CEO Terry Reader and club recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan last week, there were fears he could jump ship to the new franchise on a deal as high as $1.3million per season.
But the Knights are set to shut the door on that happening with a five-year, $1.2million-a-season contract, the Daily Telegraph has reported.
Ponga (left) was rumoured to be seriously considering a switch to the Dolphins or rugby union – but his reported megabucks deal with the Knights will put a stop to that
Ponga is currently signed until the end of 2024 but the final two years include options in his favour that would have allowed him to sign with the Dolphins for their inaugural NRL campaign in 2023.
The deal is set to be announced this week and it is understood Ponga has already privately told friends and family that he will remain in Newcastle.
A long-term deal with the Knights would also seemingly shut the door on Ponga switching codes and making a tilt at a Rugby World Cup with the New Zealand All Blacks.
‘It’s no secret I want to win a comp in Newcastle, I want to hold the trophy up here,’ Ponga said when he re-signed with the Knights in 2020.
‘We’re building towards something and I can definitely feel it. It’s something that I want to be a part of and I’m excited to be a part of.
‘There was a lot of talk in the media about rugby union but I’ve always said I’m focused on the Knights and have been since I walked in the door.’
Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett reportedly had a secret meeting with Ponga last week, which angered Knights legend Andrew Johns
Previously, the Eighth Immortal Andrew Johns – who works at the Knights in a coaching consultant role – had lashed out at Bennett meeting with Ponga.
‘It affects them [as players],’ Johns said on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.
‘I just think it’s poor form if Wayne flew down to Newcastle to meet with a player, while they are playing that season.
‘Kalyn’s carrying a knee injury so you saw he was limited [in a poor showing against Cronulla on Friday night].
‘But it would definitely have been a distraction.’
The loss of Ponga would be a huge blow for the Dolphins who have already missed out on marquee prospects including Harry Grant, Jahrome Hughes, Reed Mahoney, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Junior Paulo and Brandon Smith.
Ponga (top) would have been the Dolphins’ superstar player had he signed. Now the club will likely turn its attention to the Storm’s Cameron Munster
Fox Sports commentator Michael Ennis has previously said the club should focus their attention on off-contract Storm star Cameron Munster and wantaway Warriors fullback Reece Walsh.
‘I would love to see Kalyn stay at Newcastle, I really would and I think the best investment for the Dolphins moving forward, and it is just my opinion, is I think they go all in for Cameron Munster,’ he said.
‘And then they try and get Reece Walsh, I really do.
‘I think you can’t afford to spend the amount of money on Munster and Ponga, I think they are far better suited, you get Reece Walsh for half the price of Ponga.’
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk