Kalyn Ponga has finally put his much publicised NRL contract saga to bed after announcing that he will remain with the Newcastle Knights on a new five-year contract.
The deal - announced on Wednesday and reported to be worth $1 million per season - removes any threat of the 24-year-old linking up with the Wayne Bennett-led Dolphins when they enter the NRL next year.
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The Newcastle superstar was one of the Dolphins' primary targets and the 17th club is now expected to heavily chase Melbourne Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster.
Ponga had until June 1 to inform Knights management of his decision to exercise an option in his contract to stay at the club in 2023.
The player options in the final two years (2023, 2024) of his four-year deal, which he signed in 2020, yielded all the negotiating power to the Queensland State of Origin representative.
The clauses allowed Ponga the chance to walk out on the club at short notice to switch codes to rugby union or link with another club such as the Dolphins.
Bennett recently met the Knights fullback in an attempt to lure him to the club for their inaugural NRL campaign.
But the $5 million Knights deal eliminates those clauses and the chance for Ponga to switch clubs until the end of the 2027 season.
"We are delighted to secure his future and look forward to watching him lead this club for a very long time," Newcastle Knights and Wests Group CEO Philip Gardner said in a statement.
"This signature adds to the forward momentum we are building, giving loyal Knights members and the local community another reason to be excited.
"Kalyn sees the vision and direction we have committed to take for the club. He agrees we have the right coach, appreciates the exciting new facilities, and wants to succeed with the Newcastle Knights."
@kalyn_ponga congrats on the new contract K.P well deserved. I appreciate the loyalty and dedication you show for newcastle every week and more importantly QUEENSLAND. You absolute legend! Also nice try saving tackle last week I seen it good sh*t
— Mitchell Wynbergen (@MWynbergen) April 20, 2022
— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 Australia (@sportingnewsau) April 20, 2022
— bet365 AUS (@bet365_aus) April 20, 2022
— We Love Rubgy League (@weloveleague) April 20, 2022
— Shaun McNamara (@ShaunMcNamara) April 20, 2022
Anthony Milford linking up with Knights
The Ponga news comes at an exciting time for the Knights, who are also welcoming Anthony Milford to the club for the remainder of the 2022 season.
The Knights have registered a contract for the 27-year-old Milford after the NRL on Saturday rubber-stamped his return to the competition.
Milford begins training with Newcastle this week but has been banned from playing for at least the next month as part of his punishment for off-field dramas.
The former Brisbane star's contract was registered after he pleaded guilty to counts of public nuisance and wilful damage.
But he will have to take part in rehabilitation programs, meaning he can begin training with the Knights but won't be able to play until at least round 11.
The decision comes after Milford had three charges of assault dropped in court, following an incident in Brisbane last year.
In a statement, the NRL said it was concerned by agreed facts that Milford had twice pushed a women during the incident, before his actions caused her to fall and hit her head on concrete.
"The NRL has zero tolerance for any form of violence involving women and will always take serious action in relation to such incidents," the NRL said.
"Milford's eligibility to play in the premiership will be conditional on him successfully completing a series of personal development and tailored rehabilitation programs.
"(As well as) ongoing assessments with NRL wellbeing and education, including regular updates to the Integrity Unit about his progress.
"He will not be permitted to play until the programs have been substantially completed, he has been assessed by an appropriate professional, and met with the NRL."
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