Too early to make five-eighth call on Ponga: O'Brien

Coach Adam O'Brien has defended Newcastle's decision to shift Kalyn Ponga to five-eighth but says it's too early to determine whether the 24-year-old will return there after recovering from his latest concussion.

Less than two minutes into his second game in the halves, the former fullback was knocked unconscious attempting a tackle against the Wests Tigers and played no further part in the game.

The concussion was Ponga's fourth in 10 months. He missed the last six weeks of the 2022 season as he recovered from repeated head knocks.

In the pre-season, Ponga made the move to five-eighth with the hope of playing a bigger role in Newcastle's recovery from a dismal 2022 campaign.

But the switch put him in the defensive frontline, exposing him to greater concussion risk if he mistimed a tackle. It also increased his ball-playing opportunities, which meant he would be tackled more often.

Ponga will miss the Knights' first home game of the season against the Dolphins this Friday, but his return timeline is uncertain beyond that.

Club legend Matthew Johns this week led calls for Ponga to revert to fullback once he recovered, believing the move could help shield him from further head knocks.

But O'Brien said it was too early to begin planning for Ponga's return.

"We're nowhere near that point yet," he said

"I can completely understand where people are coming from.

"Ultimately, everyone wants Kalyn in the game and everyone wants to take care of this guy. He's got a lot of life to lead yet. That's first and foremost.

"But there's a number of conversations that'll need to be had."

O'Brien defended the decision to shift Ponga to the halves despite the increased concussion risk.

"He really wanted to go up there," O'Brien said.

"His want to grab ownership of this team is probably paramount. That's probably how we got to it.

"Certainly Kalyn himself was excited by playing that position."

On Thursday, Ponga took to Instagram to publicly address his concussion for the first time and appeared reconciled to the fact his immediate future now lay out of his hands.

"Appreciate all the love and support over the past couple of days," he wrote.

"Whatever will be, will be. Appreciate you guys though, thank you xx."

The Knights will continue to support Ponga through his recovery.

"We've had some contact with both him and his family. They're in good spirits," O'Brien said.

"It's not a good look what you've seen there on the weekend, but there's a number of things to be talked about.

"(His recovery is) in the hands of some pretty smart people now. We'll be governed by that."