IN his own humble fashion, Kalyn Ponga has warned his NRL opponents that they ain’t seen nothing yet.
Ponga, the 20-year-old Knights fullback, has been a sensation in his first full season of top-grade football, emerging as one of the most exciting prospects in years to earn an Origin debut for Queensland in game two of this year’s series.
With six tries, 11 try assists and more tackle breaks (128) than any other NRL player, Ponga has already established himself as Newcastle’s main attacking threat.
And while rival coaches and players study him intently each week on video, in an attempt to minimise his impact, Ponga is confident that the experience he has gained in 2018 will improve his game next season and beyond.
“I’m always looking to get better,” he said.
“I still know that I’m learning heaps. I’ve got lots to learn, not only about my role but also about other people’s roles and how they can be better, and how I can be better.”
From a team perspective, Ponga believes Newcastle are on an upwards trajectory. With four rounds remaining, they are 11th but can potentially leapfrog Canberra if they beat the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Friday.
“We’ll look to finish this season on a high, and then come back to pre-season and get stuck in,” he said.
“You’d want to hope we’re going to get better next year, given all the boys have had a few more games under their belt and we can build some more combinations.
“So hopefully we can get better.”
Having arrived in Newcastle with just nine NRL games to his name for his former club, North Queensland, Ponga is now in contention to finish the season as the youngest-ever winner of the Dally M gold medal. He started the year as a $67 chance with TAB before firming to $3.50 outright favouritism, which he surrendered this week to South Sydney hooker Damien Cook ($3.25).
But becoming the third Newcastle player, after champions Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus, to win the code’s ultimate indivdual honour is not a priority for Ponga.
“I just want to win every game, not really win that,” he said.
“My focus is as a team and winning games, not winning those individual accolades … if you’re looking at that you’re playing selfish, and I don’t want to be that sort of player.
“I’d rather win games.”
Johns told the Wide World of Sports website on Thursday that he felt Newcastle would be wise to move Ponga to five-eighth, so that he could partner skipper Mitchell Pearce on a weekly basis.
Ponga said he would do “whatever is best for the team” but admitted his preference was to stay as Newcastle’s last line of defence.
On Friday, he will clash with another dynamic No.1 in Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
The Warriors are chasing their 13th win in 14 games against Newcastle in Auckland, and their sixth in a row.