Kalyn Ponga says he will return to NRL action for the Newcastle Knights as soon as possible, after returning from overseas where he underwent brain scans in light of his history of concussion. The Knights five-eighth said he had been 'reassured' by the results of scans undergone in Canada.
The 25-year-old took the trip after suffering a brutal head knock making a front-on tackle in round two against Wests Tigers. That concussion came after he was shut down by the Knights towards the end of last season after three consecutive concussions last season.
'CAN END CAREERS': Matty Johns hits out over 'insidious' act
There were significant fears for his playing future after the most recent knock, which prompted questions from NRL greats as to Ponga's suitability for the position. Moving him to fullback isn't an easy option for the Knights though, with off-season recruit Lachie Miller having a breakout season in the number one jersey.
That question will be answered in two weeks, when Ponga makes his scheduled return against the North Queensland Cowboys in round eight. His position aside, Ponga said he had been given the 'best result' as scans in Canada showed a normal level of brain activity.
"I'm good," Ponga said. "Four weeks ago there was all that talk about retirement. To go over to Canada and get clarity about what I am doing and what I can do, it's reassuring for me.
"I should be back in not too long. I just want to get back on the field, doing what I love with the boys.
"We got the best result I could over there. That was the result I got, that you are able to go back and play ... your brain is in a healthy position to do so. Really reassuring and positive news."
Knights coach Adam O'Brien has already indicated the club will wait until Ponga's round eight return to make a decision where he will play. In the meantime, the likes of Matthew Johns and various others have suggested Ponga is too much at risk with the increased tackling load at five-eighth.
Kalyn Ponga positional debate erupts after NRL concussions
While Johns would not speculate on Ponga's future in the sport out of concern for the mental wellbeing of the Knights skipper, he did suggest that it might be prudent of the Knights to shift the 24-year-old back to fullback, where he won't be required to defend in the frontline and make so many tackles in a game. Ponga makes three tackles per game on average at fullback, compared to 12 when he features at five-eighth.
"When you are a kid and your whole life you have defended in the front line, there is so much of defence that is intuition," Johns said on SEN earlier this year. "You just know where to place your head, where to place your feet. How to drop, when to drive.
"It doesn't safeguard you from concussions ... but for (Ponga) this is a whole new kettle of fish. Yesterday the guy was going towards him with a bit of footwork and he got his head caught in an awkward position. That can happen to anyone.
"But if Kalyn is their most important player, which he is, then they have to make a decision on where he best sits in the side."
Ponga admitted he was frustrated to not be playing over the Easter weekend, as the Knights enjoyed a 34-24 win over the Warriors on Sunday. Speaking on field to the crowd before the Knights' Easter Sunday clash with the Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium, Ponga said he simply had to bide his time and get back to match fitness.
"I got cleared on the brain perspective," he said. "It shouldn't be too long until I am back, I just have to get some more kilometres in my legs, get match fit and then I will be ready to go.
"When you go through something like that, the amount of support and love and messages I got, I put something out just to say thank you to everyone. To have that support from Newcastle and all my family and friends, was awesome."
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.