Newcastle Knights set for $2 million purge as Kalyn Ponga issue thrust back into spotlight

The club is facing a huge issue with their salary cap with Kalyn Ponga on $1.4 million a season.

The Newcastle Knights are reportedly set to make a number of huge calls as the club faces extreme pressure on the salary cap amid Kalyn Ponga's huge five-year contract. The Knights sit two points outside the top eight this year and have managed most of the NRL season without star fullback Ponga due to injury.

However, in recent weeks, reports have emerged the Knights' salary cap is at capacity with the club unable to sign anymore players without breaking the rules. Ponga is the highest-paid player in the NRL and the reigning Dally M winner is on an estimated $1.4 million a year.

Daniel Saifiti (pictured far right) has opened up about his future at the Newcastle Knights with Kalyn Ponga's (pictured left) huge salary adding to the salary cap pressure. (Getty Images)
Daniel Saifiti (pictured far right) has opened up about his future at the Newcastle Knights with Kalyn Ponga's (pictured left) huge salary adding to the salary cap pressure. (Getty Images)

Ponga has been out since round seven having fractured a bone in his foot in a worrying injury for the fullback. Added to his recent setbacks with concussions and Ponga has missed a fair amount of NRL footy in recent years. He also takes up a huge portion of the salary cap - $7 million across five years. This has led to questions on whether the Knights are struggling to build a team around him with the funds they have at their expense.

Despite his latest injury, Ponga would demand that money from most clubs considering his talent and X-factor. Although reports have revealed a portion of the Knights' salary cap is being taken up by stars they do not believe have lived up to the hype.

Daniel Saifiti, Jayden Brailey and Jack Hetherington are reportedly set to be told they can chat with other clubs with the trio taking up just under $2 million of the salary cap. Saifiti is on just under $750,000 for a front rower. This makes him one of the highest paid props in the NRL.

While Saifiti was once one of the leading front rowers in the competition, having played seven games for the Blues in State of Origin, his form across the last two years has dipped. He recently only averages 83 running metres per game.

And the humble prop admitted he was well aware of his situation and would do what is best by the club and most importantly his family. "I think Stevie Wonder could see that our salary cap is not in the best position," Saifiti told The Newcastle Herald.

"But they've been up front and honest, and I have to respect that. If I wanted to dig my heels in and stay, I could stay. But I love this club too much, if that's the way they want to go ... I'll do what's best for myself and my family, but I also have this club's interests at heart as well."

Daniel Saifiti warming-up.
Daniel Saifiti (pictured) is set to look for a new club after a chat with the club about his future.

Both Brailey and Hetherington are believed to be on a significant contract with both struggling to make a difference. Hetherington averages less than 60 running metres a game for the Knights across 12 appearances in 2024.

Brailey has been hit with a number of serious injuries since joining the Knights. However, reports suggest the club's officials don't believe the No.9 has been able to live-up to his price tag. Brailey has struggled to nail down a starting position on the team and is reportedly in line for a chat with officials about his future.


And on Fox Sports' NRL 360, reporter Brent Read claimed the duo would be told they might need to find a new club going forward with the new recruitment manager set to make some big calls. “They’ve got cap issues, that’s for sure. Peter O’Sullivan has gone in and had a look under the bonnet and I don’t think he’s happy,” Read said on the issue.

“You can’t be over the cap because the NRL won’t register the contracts, they can’t be. They are in a position where their rosters spots are filled. So they can’t sign more players because their cap is at its absolute limit. If they sign any more players they will go over the cap, and you’ve got to sign 30 players. Jack Hetherington, I don’t think (Jayden) Brailey has been told right now he can go, but it will happen I imagine in the next week or so that he’s told he can find something else.”

But in good news for the Knights, the Dally M winner is set to return this weekend in a huge boost for the NRL club sitting only two points outside of the top eight. A huge win at home against the Eels on Saturday lifted the spirits of the club as they look to make another late charge to play finals footy.

with AAP