Kalyn Ponga caught in concussion controversy as NRL fans fume at 'garbage' farce

NRL fans and commentators have questioned why the Newcastle Knights star didn't have to undergo an HIA.

Kalyn Ponga, pictured here in Newcastle's win over Canberra in the NRL finals.
Kalyn Ponga wasn't required to undergo an HIA despite his head hitting the ground violently. Image: AAP/Getty

NRL fans and commentators are questioning why Kalyn Ponga wasn't taken off for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) in the dying stages of Newcastle's thrilling win over Canberra on Sunday. Ponga kicked the game-winning penalty goal in the second period of extra time to give the Knights a 30-28 victory and end the Raiders' season.

Referee Ashley Klein originally called six-again for the Knights, but then blew a penalty after Ponga was crunched in a ferocious tackle and dropped the ball. Ponga converted the ensuing penalty kick, and the Knights held on for an extraordinary finals victory.

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But questions have been asked as to why Ponga was allowed to stay on the field to take the winning kick after he lay motionless for a number of seconds following the tackle. Jack Wighton appeared to collect Ponga in the head with his arm, before the Newcastle fullback's head was propelled straight into the ground in violent fashion.

Ponga lay flat on his back for a number of seconds without moving, before getting to his feet with the help of teammates. The fullback was spoken to by the trainer, who gave Ponga the all-clear to keep playing and take the kick.

"He looks in trouble here," Billy Slater said in commentary for Channel 9. Andrew Johns desperately asked "can he kick?", before Brad Fittler said: "The Bunker should come into play and be looking at this because if he gets called for an HIA he'll have to come straight off for 15 minutes."

Kalyn Ponga, pictured here after his head hit the ground.
Kalyn Ponga was motionless for a few seconds after his head hit the ground. Image: Channel 9

Should Kalyn Ponga have gone off for an HIA?

Many were left questioning why an HIA wasn't ordered by the Newcastle trainer or the NRL's independent doctor, especially considering Ponga's history of concussions. While the incident wouldn't have affected the outcome because someone else would've slotted the kick anyway, a failed HIA could have had huge ramifications for next weekend's clash with the Warriors.

Under league rules, a player can't play for 11 days if they fail an HIA and the incident is deemed a category one. Considering Ponga's extensive history of concussions, even a category two could trigger a stand-down period.

Kalyn Ponga, pictured here kicking the winning goal as the Knights beat the Raiders.
Kalyn Ponga was allowed to stay on the field and kick the winning goal as the Knights beat the Raiders. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Discussing the situation after the game, Ponga said: "I was definitely OK to make the kick ." But Raiders fans were left crying foul considering Joseph Tapine had been ordered to undergo an HIA in the dying seconds of regulation time, meaning he missed the 10 minutes of extra time as a result.

"Ponga allowed to stay on the field after supposedly being hit in the head! No HIA protocol, but whatever," one fan wrote on social media. Another asked: "Why wasn't Ponga sent for an HIA assessment before taking the winning kick? Clearly hit around the head on the prior play, history of concussion. Where's the duty of care NRL? Should be stood down for next week with his history."

Newcastle cop huge Jackson Hastings blow

The win marked Newcastle's first in a home final since 2006, and ensures they will head to Auckland to face the Warriors next Saturday on the back of 10 consecutive wins. However they will more than likely be without Jackson Hastings after the halfback missed the second half and extra time with an ankle injury.

"It doesn't look great and I haven't had a chance to speak to the doctors just yet," Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien said after the game. "We tested him at half-time and he wasn't going to be able to contribute in the second half."

Reads 'NRL Finals 2023' with the cut out images of three players throwing a football - Cameron Munster, Nathan Cleary and Reece Walsh, with a backdrop of a football stadium.
Discover more of our NRL Finals coverage.

NRL Week 2 Finals schedule:

  • Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters - Friday 7.50pm, AAMI Park

  • Warriors v Newcastle Knights - Saturday 4.05pm (AEST), Go Media Stadium

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