'A unique talent': Time for Kalyn Ponga to be his own man

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Seen here, Kalyn Ponga at a press conference to announce his new five-year deal at the Knights.
Kalyn Ponga finally out his contract saga to bed on Wednesday after committing to the Knights in a new five-year deal. Pic: Getty

It's appropriate in the whacky and wonderful world that is rugby league, a dude called League Freak summed up the Kalyn Ponga saga best.

"Kalyn Ponga is 24. Why do we hear about what his dad wants so often? It’s f..king weird," Mr Freak wrote on Twitter.

It sure is.

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Ponga has been painted as the Britney Spears of the NRL, unable or unwilling to break free of the old man's clutches.

Andre Ponga controls his son's every move and held Newcastle officials by the dusters all through this drawn-out contract affair, which thankfully ended on Wednesday when the skipper put us all out of our misery by announcing he'd be staying in the Hunter until the end of 2027.

Comparisons have been made to domineering tennis fathers like Damir Dokic, although Andre is yet to complain about the price of fish at McDonald Jones Stadium.

He strongly denies suggestions he used his son as a weapon to ensure Newcastle danced to his beat at every step in negotiations, but there is no doubt the Knights tip-toed on eggshells throughout.

They quickly learned what was agreed one minute was not necessarily in place the next.

"It was a pretty simple process for us. When you do things with integrity and are honourable in this game, it goes a long way to who you are as a person," Andre said.

The Knights have to wear some of the blame for the fiasco.

Their first mistake was to agree to clauses in Kalyn's original contract allowing him the freedom to explore his options, late in his deal, on an annual basis.

The Pongas were doing nothing wrong in exercising those clauses, but certain Newcastle officials were still upset over dad's influence.

Second from right, Kalyn Ponga poses for photos during a Newcastle Knights NRL media opportunity.
The Knights were delighted to announce a new five-year contact for Kalyn Ponga (second from right) at a press conference on Wednesday. Pic: Getty

General manager of football, Danny Buderus, insisted he was not one of them.

He admits the saga kept him up at night, but the lost sleep was worth it.

"Kalyn's a unique talent and a unique talent brings unique contracts," he said.

The new deal is not unique and does not include clauses and no get-out button if things go pear-shaped.

"It is good to have all the rugby union and all the other questions after games out the window," Kalyn said.

"I've been dedicated all along but the five years stamps that."

Newcastle eventually got their man – now it’s time for Kalyn Ponga to be his own man.

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