'Hasn't evolved': Andrew Johns' blunt reality check for NRL ace

Riley Morgan
·Sports Reporter
·2-min read
Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce looking exhausted during an NRL match.
Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce of the Knights during the round seven. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Knights legend and the eighth immortal Andrew Johns has criticised one of the game’s highest profile talents, Kalyn Ponga, for not keeping up with the best current fullbacks.

Ponga has been slightly below his best in the last few weeks as the Knights, which included a quiet showing against the high-flying Parramatta Eels on the weekend.

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Despite a growing injury toll, the Knights made a brave account of themselves in the four-point loss to the ladder-leading Eels at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The loss knocked them out of the top four, which is now made up of Eels, Penrith, Melbourne and the Roosters.

But arguably the game’s greatest ever player, Johns, has called for Ponga to keep up with the game’s premier fullbacks - such as James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic - and evolve his game to make it harder for the opposition to study him.

“I think Tedesco and Turbo have totally gone to another level. I think Kalyn needs to expand on the way he plays,” Johns said on his podcast Freddie and the Eighth.

“Teams do so much homework on the best players so I think you have to evolve the way you play, and I think Kalyn maybe hasn’t evolved his game.

Andrew Johns commentates during the round 19 NRL match.
Andrew Johns commentates during the round 19 NRL match between the Panthers and Raiders at Panthers Stadium on July 28, 2019 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

While Johns said Ponga’s form could be a by-product of the Knights struggling in the last few weeks, he still called form to follow Tedesco’s example.

“But you look at the other two, Tedesco and Turbo, I don’t know how but they keep improving.”

NRL to instruct players to return to bubble

NRL clubs from NSW and the ACT will go back into strict biosecurity bubbles after an emergency meeting of the ARLC in Sydney.

Players outside of Queensland were being notified by clubs on Tuesday afternoon that they are no longer allowed at cafes, restaurants or pubs, and restrictions on home visitors will resume.

It's expected the new protocols will be enforced from Wednesday, while Queensland-based clubs will be unaffected.

It comes after ARLC chairman Peter V'landys sought advice from biosecurity experts on Tuesday morning after the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney.

With AAP