Kalyn Ponga's future at Newcastle thrown into question amid NRL salary cap bombshell

Concerns have been raised about Ponga's future at the Knights.

Concerns have been raised about Kalyn Ponga's future at the Newcastle Knights amid claims from the NRL star's father that he is still owed money from a lucrative third-party sponsorship deal. The Sydney Morning Herald has reported the NRL Integrity Unit is investigating claims from Ponga's father and agent Andre that his son is owed money from a third-party sponsorship deal that was agreed with the Knights superstar in 2020. The NRL is also investigating whether the deal breached salary cap rules.

It's understood Ponga's father Andre met with league officials last week and raised his concerns about the third-party sponsorship deal that is believed to have been worth six figures. “The NRL is aware of the matter and is reviewing it,” an NRL spokesman said. The NRL signed off on the deal at the time on the basis that under salary cap rules no third-party agreements can involve the player's footy club.

Pictured here, Newcastle Knights NRL star Kalyn Ponga.
Kalyn Ponga's third-party sponsorship dispute has raised questions around his NRL future at the Newcastle Knights. Pic: Getty

However, it's been suggested the agreement in question was between Ponga and a business associate of a powerful figure at the Newcastle club, potentially putting it in jeopardy under NRL rules. Channel Nine rugby league journalist Michael Chammas went as far as suggesting that the saga could prompt Ponga to either renegotiate the huge contract extension he signed with the Knights in 2022, or even look to move away from Newcastle. Ponga is currently sidelined with a Lisfranc injury to his right foot and is expected to be out for at least a couple of months.

“With Kalyn and this situation, I think there’s going to be a little bit more to it,” Chammas told Channel 9’s 100% Footy on Monday night, adding that there was "unrest" in Ponga's camp. “Obviously information is still coming to light, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the beginning of an agitation for Kalyn Ponga to potentially re-negotiate or explore other options.

“I think there’s unrest there. I don’t think Andre Ponga would have done this lightly, to go to the NRL, and as I said, there’s some details that we can’t say at the moment that will come to light over the next 24-48 hours that are quite significant.” Veteran Nine commentator and Bulldogs head of football Phil Gould also weighed in on the drama and said getting to the bottom of the nature of the third-party sponsorship deal was crucial.

“If he hasn’t been paid by that sponsor, that’s really between Kalyn and that sponsor and as to whether or not he performed that work for them or didn't get paid,” Gould said on the show. “I don’t know if it’s really got a lot to do with the Knights or the NRL if that’s the way it’s been described, but if they go back retrospectively and perhaps this fella didn’t pay for whatever reason, and he was associated with the club, that’s a different story.

“But at the moment it sounds like the Knights are pretty well protected and I wouldn’t be jumping to conclusions too much about what may come.” The Knights responded in a statement of their own to confirm that the third-party deal had been signed off on by the NRL. “All third parties are registered with the NRL. There’s no issue with Kalyn Ponga’s contract and anything to do with third parties remain between the player and his agent to resolve," the statement said.

Seen here, Kalyn Ponga in action against the Cowboys in the round two of the NRL in 2024.
Kalyn Ponga is seen here in action against the Cowboys in the round two of the NRL in 2024. Pic: Getty

Ponga signed a massive extension with the Knights in 2022 that is worth around $1.4 million per year and runs until the end of the 2027 season. If the allegations from the Newcastle captain's father about the missing third-party payments are proven correct, the Knights could decide to pay the player themselves but that money would have to come out of the club's salary cap.


The NRL's salary cap auditor can also retrospectively include previous deals under a club's current salary cap, if new information comes to light. Manly were faced with such a scenario after being penalised for salary cap breaches relating to undisclosed third-party deals across the 2013-17 period. The Sea Eagles were fined $750,000 and had $330,000 stripped off their salary caps for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. There is no suggestion the Knights have done anything wrong though and the claims from Ponga's father are yet to be substantiated.