Kalyn Ponga out 'at least 12 weeks' as ugly claims about NRL superstar smacked down

A leading physio has moved to reject suggestions the devastating blow could have been avoided.

Kalyn Ponga is set to undergo surgery and reportedly spend at least three months on the sidelines, but has seemingly avoided having his season ended by a foot injury. Scans have revealed a Lisfranc fracture in Ponga's right foot, which will require surgery and is expected to see him miss at least 12 weeks.

The Newcastle fullback won't be back in action until round 20 at the earliest, meaning he will miss the entire State of Origin series. There are still some concerns the injury could see Ponga miss the remainder of the season, but Knights officials are said to be optimistic he can return at some stage later in the year.

Kalyn Ponga, pictured here during the Knights' loss to the Bulldogs.
The writing was on the wall when Kalyn Ponga couldn't clean up a kick in the in-goal and allowed the Bulldogs to score. Image: Fox League/AAP

Lisfranc injuries affect the bones or ligaments in the middle part of the foot. Ponga won't be able to put weight on his right foot for six to eight weeks, and will then need to regain his fitness in order to return to the playing field.

“Kalyn had scans on Monday morning confirming he has a Lisfranc injury,” Knights Director of Football Peter Parr said in a statement. “The next steps will include seeing a surgeon and setting an injury management program. Unfortunately, at this stage it appears to be a long-term injury, with a return to play likely to be months rather than weeks.”

Kalyn Ponga, pictured here after suffering the foot injury.
Kalyn Ponga looks likely to miss an extended period with a foot injury. Image: Fox League

Should Kalyn Ponga have been playing in the first place?

NRL fans were left questioning why the Newcastle Knights risked playing Ponga against the Bulldogs on Sunday considering he was already hampered by a hip injury. Ponga sustained a hip pointer injury in last week's loss to the Roosters, and was seen limping around the dressing room before the game against the Bulldogs. But despite the fact it's only Round 7 and the Knights can ill afford to lose their fullback, O'Brien and the Knights staff decided to play him anyway.

The 26-year-old hobbled around the field in the first half and still looked very ginger, leading to calls from fans for him to be taken off. But he came back out for the second half and had a nightmare moment when he failed to clean up a grubber in the in-goal and allowed Bailey Hayward to score.

Ponga could be seen gesturing that he'd injured his foot not long after, and it wasn't long before he was finally forced from the field. "Honestly, when you see a bloke running out for a game and he's got a pronounced limp...I don't know why he played in that game yesterday," Mark Geyer said on Triple M radio on Monday. "The only thing I can think of is he tried to needle it up and the needle didn't work. I can't for the life of my figure out why he played."


NRL Physio smacks down claims about Kalyn Ponga injury

While he didn't re-injure his hip, there were some suggestions the foot injury was likely caused by the fact his running style was changed because he was guarding the hip. It's not uncommon for athletes to injure other areas if they are hampered by a certain issue and trying to protect it - particularly in the legs.

But NRL Physio Brien Seeney moved to refute those claims later on Monday, saying a left hip injury can't cause an issue with the right foot. "A hip pointer injury is a bruise," he said in a video on social media. "It's got nothing to do with an injury in your foot. A Lisfranc injury 99 times out of 100 is a traumatic injury. It is not going to develop from one week of 'compensation' from carrying a bruise on your hip."

Seeney also moved to reject the notion that Ponga shouldn't have been playing, saying it is "very rare" that players miss any time with hip pointer injuries. "It just doesn't happen in the NRL," he added. "Guys play through hip pointers all the time."

But the fact he had nine days of treatment after the Roosters game and was still limping around the dressing room before Sunday's match probably should have been all the Knights staff needed to know. Rather than resting him for one week and getting his hip right, they will now be without him for months due to the foot.

Kalyn Ponga cops huge State of Origin blow with injury

It means the Knights are destined to languish in the bottom half of the ladder during his absence. O'Brien's side are so reliant on their talismanic fullback that it's hard to see where their wins will come from when he's not playing.

The Knights went on an extraordinary run to make the finals last season, but it was all off the back of some career-best form from Ponga that led him all the way to the Dally M medal. The injury will also come as a crushing blow to his hopes of a State of Origin recall, with a tricky decision seemingly made easier for Billy Slater.

The Maroons coach was trying to work out how he could fit Ponga, Reece Walsh and Ben Hunt into his 17, but Ponga's injury means the decision is made. Ponga opted not to play Origin last year so he could focus on club footy with the Knights, but declared his intention to return to the Origin arena in 2024.