KNIGHTS chief executive Matt Gidley said speculation about the size of Kalyn Ponga’s deal had been “wildly exaggerated” after Newcastle confirmed on Monday they had signed the teenage sensation for four years.
Reports have suggested the North Queensland 18-year-old, who has appeared in only two NRL games, would be paid up to $3.6 million by Newcastle over five seasons. The tenure of the contract is actually one year less than that, running from 2018 until the end of 2021, although the Knights will attempt to convince Cowboys officials to grant Ponga an early release so that he can move south before next season kicks off.
“If it was just about the money, Kalyn would not have come to Newcastle,’’ Gidley said.
“There was plenty of other interest out there in him.’’
Ponga visited Newcastle on the weekend to put pen to paper, two weeks after agreeing to terms.
Gidley said there had been some “very initial” discussions with North Queensland about the possibility of expediting his release.
Cowboys coach Paul Green has already indicated he wants the utility back to see out his contract and spend 2017 in Townsville.
“As it stands, we are excited about Kalyn joining us in 2018,” Gidley said in a club statement.
“Should the Cowboys decide to release Kalyn before the conclusion of his contract, we would certainly welcome him to the club at an earlier date.”
Gidley said Newcastle had salary cap space to accommodate Ponga in 2017 if that chance arose.
Speculation has been rife for the past two weeks that Newcastle had beaten a host of rival clubs and codes to secure the services of the hottest prospect in rugby league.
Knights legends Andrew and Matthew Johns and Danny Buderus all played a role in convincing Ponga to join the back-to-back wooden spooners.
“There is no doubt Kalyn is a very talented and exciting young player and his signing is definitely a coup for the club,” Knights coach Nathan Brown said on Monday.
“We look forward to further developing his talent and welcoming his family to Newcastle.”