Kalyn Ponga in brutal admission during classy Dally M award speech

The Knights fullback was sheepish on stage but stunned views with his honesty.

Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga injured and Ponga with the Dally M medal.
Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga (pictured) has admitted he was 'tired' of letting people down and a change in attitude sparked his Dally M winning form in 2023. (Getty Images)

Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga has admitted he was 'tired' of letting people down after a number of NRL setbacks, which resulted in his phenomenal end-of-year run that secured him a maiden Dally M award. Ponga stormed home late in the Dally M race to take the award in the last round of voting with 56 points, which resulted in devastation for Shaun Johnson finishing second on 55 points.

Ponga was sheepish on stage as he faced his peers after a sensational season, but admitted his motivation to turn his form around this year stemmed from a rather sad time. "It's a crazy feeling, I feel humbled and very lucky," Ponga said.

'NOT ALLOWED': Panthers accused of illegal Nathan Cleary act before grand final

NO WAY: Joseph Suaalii in 'backflip' twist after Wallabies' awful flop

"I have a lot of people to thank - my family, the staff and my teammates. The way I played this year is impossible without your support and love and belief in me.

"I had an early-season holiday and when I was over there I decided I wanted to stop letting people down, and yeah, what a year."

Ponga's speech might have been short, but it carried a lot of weight with the phenomenally talented fullback sending a scare through the NRL when he went down against the Tigers in round 2. It marked the fourth concussion for Ponga in 10 months, which saw him travel to Canada to seek professional advice in a bid to save his career and his future.

Ponga missed five games, which had fearing he might never return to the game. But he returned in round 8 as the Knights looked to turn their season around and make what appeared to be a near-impossible charge to the finals.

But it wasn't until the Knights went on an unprecedented nine-game unbeaten streak that had the NRL world talking about the form of the fullback. Fans couldn't help but get dragged into the debate of who was the in-form fullback, Ponga or Reece Walsh.

Kalyn Ponga poses with Tamika Upton after the Dally M awards.
NRL Dally M Medal winner and Fullback of the Year Kalyn Ponga (pictured left) and NRLW Dally M Medal winner and Fullback of the Year Tamika Upton (pictured right). (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

And Ponga received the game's top individual honour on Wednesday night having finished one of the toughest seasons of his career on a high. Fans were thrilled for Ponga with so many fearing he would never play NRL again after his scary concussion drama in 2023.

Kalyn Ponga 'envious' of grand final players

Ponga was all class to the Broncos and Penrith players who are competing for the premiership this week. To finish his speech, Ponga congratulated those who were playing this weekend and admitted he was frustrated not to be a part of the spectacle. 'Yeah, what a year. To the boys who are playing this weekend, I'm envious of you and all the best. Thank you everyone."

Knights fullback Tamika Upton won the NRLW Dally M award to mark a historic night for the club. "This is definitely not an individual award," Upton said.

Reads 'NRL Finals 2023' with the cut out images of three players throwing a football - Cameron Munster, Nathan Cleary and Reece Walsh, with a backdrop of a football stadium.
Discover more of our NRL Finals coverage.

"I think from the moment I stepped foot (in Newcastle), I've been supported by everyone involved and that spreads to my teammates.

"For my family and friends back home who have always supported me, I can feel the love so thank you."

Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.