Little more than 12 months into his NRL career, Kalyn Ponga is getting his head around the prospect of playing in a new position against rival teams hellbent on heavily targeting him in a bid to blunt his brilliance.
But Knights coach Nathan Brown has absolutely no doubts the dynamic 20-year-old will handle whatever challenge is thrown his way this season and won’t suffer from the dreaded second year syndrome.
“The game is always more difficult in year two in some ways but I’m sure as opposition teams look to target him, he’ll work out ways [to combat it],” Brown said.
“I think we all know Kalyn played lock for Queensland and everyone says it was the best Origin debut they had ever seen so he is obviously a kid who can adapt to situations and play well.
“What we do know is other coaches and players work out what other players’ strengths and weaknesses are. Obviously, they try to then shut down key attacking players.
“In Kalyn’s case, this next six week period is about putting the things in place that are going to help him. If he trains well and his attitude is good and he works hard on getting some small things right about his game, we are very confident he will have a good year.”
A rare talent who Knights Immortal Andrew Johns has already dubbed a once-in-a-generation player, Ponga could not possibly have left a bigger impression on the NRL than he did in 2018.
And while there are those, including retired Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston who aren’t fans of his move from fullback to five-eighth, Brown is convinced it will prove a winner.
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“Everyone has an opinion on Kalyn don’t they because of his talent but it’s more the style of footy he plays for me, it’s not where he stands [on the field],” Brown said.
“If he stands in the line, he’s got to do a bit more tackling but at the end of the day, it’s how you use him as an offensive player.
“From our point of view, the stuff he started to work on last year, he’ll continue to work on that and building his combinations and add little things to his game as well.
“It’s not that anyone is wrong or right [about the move]. It’s not that I’m wrong or the people who think it is silly him moving, they’re not wrong. They’re opinions that are probably all right because he is just such a good player.
“You’ve got Cameron Munster who played fullback for Melbourne in a grandfinal and then he played five-eighth for Queensland.
“It’s more the style of play for us and we are quite comfortable it will work for us.”
Brown is just as confident Connor Watson’s move from the halves to fullback has no down-side.
“Fullback certainly does suit Connor, there is no debate about that one,” he said.