NRL fans and commentators have expressed their concerns for Kalyn Ponga and his future in the game after the Newcastle Knights captain suffered yet another concussion setback on Sunday. The Knights lost their star five-eighth less than 90 seconds into their clash with the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval, in which they were able to produce a gutsy 14-12 victory.
However the talk of the game centered around Ponga and his latest bout of concussion. The 24-year-old was given an extended break at the end of last season after his year was ended by repeated concussions.
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He has since been shifted from fullback to five-eighth, however the positional switch has seemingly put him more in the firing line due to the fact he has to defend in the front line. He was controversially ordered off the field for a Head Injury Assessment in the opening round against the Warriors after collecting the hip of Addin Fonua-Blake.
But on Sunday things got even worse when he was knocked out after a head clash with Tigers back-rower Asu Kepaoa. Ponga fell straight to the ground after the accidental collision and stayed down for a number of seconds before returning to his feet and being assisted from the field.
Channel 9 commentator Mat Thompson described it as a "dramatic scene" as Ponga lay prone on the turf. " Oh no. Ponga has been hit flush. Oh dear. Kalyn is not at all well," he said. "What a devastating blow for the Knights."
Newcastle legend Andrew Johns added: "It was always a gamble putting Kalyn in the front line defensively. That was always the worry."
Ponga's head knock was assessed as a 'category one', meaning he was ruled out for the remainder of the game without an HIA needing to be done. It also means Ponga will automatically miss the Knights' round three clash with the Dolphins.
Adam O'Brien coy on Kalyn Ponga's immediate future
The Queensland State of Origin star has now suffered four head knocks in the last 10 months. However Knights coach Adam O'Brien wasn't willing to weigh in on how much time Ponga will miss after the latest incident.
"I've seen him make that tackle 1000 times over the summer, so I'm not too concerned around that," O'Brien said. "It's too early to say but we'll just follow the protocols.
"We gave him the summer off, he had eight games off last season, he has some extended breaks. He obviously won't play (against the Dolphins) because we've got a five-day turnaround. He was cleared to play in the last two games last year and we chose to not play him."
Newcastle's woes were compounded by another concussion to hooker Jayden Brailey, while prop forward Jacob Saifiti was sent off for a high tackle on Tigers hooker Jake Simpkin. Jackson Hastings was also placed on report for a high shot on Tommy Talau.
"Last year it would've all got too hard for us," said O'Brien, who also lost Tyson Frizell to an ankle injury. "Things aren't always going to go to plan, but it doesn't mean we can turn it up."
Fans described Ponga's latest blow as 'horrible' and 'sad'.
So horrible to see Kalyn Ponga ruled out for the game with a concussion. Now his 4th concussion in the past 10 months, had his season prematurely ended in 2022 after 3 concussions in 6 weeks. Thoughts with him
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) March 12, 2023
I actually worry how long Ponga has left to play. The amount of head injuries he has sustained in such a short period surely cannot be good for his health
— lavender baj (@lavosaurus) March 12, 2023
Kalyn Ponga knocked out again. The decision to move him to 6 and have him defend in the line massively increased the probability of this happening again. #NRLTigersKnights
— Jordan Patu (@Jordan_Patu) March 12, 2023
Man Kalyn Ponga can’t catch a break. Really sad because no matter whether you’re a knights fan or not the game is better with him in it.
— David Qicatabua (@DavidQicatabua) March 12, 2023
Ponga head knock caps off a terrible round for me 😢 my favourite player as well, so sad to see he cant get any luck with these head issues, hopefully he's ok 🙏 #SupercoachNRL
— Mathew (@Brooma_23) March 12, 2023
Awful for Ponga, he really has to start considering his long term future soon, happens far too often
— 😸 (@iam_rb01) March 12, 2023
Ponga’s head injury issues are so depressing. One of the most naturally talented players I’ve ever seen and I have serious concerns over whether we’ll see him play more than a handful of times more
— Jack Martin 🏆🏆 (@jackomarto) March 12, 2023
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