NRL NEWS: ‘My focus is here’

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Newcastle’s superstar fullback Kalyn Ponga says he’s not distracted in the slightest by the emergence of Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett trying to entice him north to the newest NRL club.

Ponga, the Knights skipper, has an option in his favour for 2023 and 2024 in his current deal.

The possibility of exercising that option grew last weekend when it was revealed Bennett and Ponga had lunch the day after Newcastle’s 18-0 loss to the Sharks.

Ponga, the Queensland fullback, would be the big fish Bennett is trying to land in his roster for 2023.

But after his side’s 30-6 home loss to Manly on Thursday at McDonald Jones Stadium – the club’s third loss in a row – Ponga said he was not about to divulge his future in a media conference..

But he added that he was able to put his off-field life to one side when it came to training and playing with Newcastle. 

“I don’t know if you notice, but every time you ask me I don’t give you an answer. So stay patient, I’ve got people working on it. My focus is always here,” said the 24-year-old, who is into his fifth year with the Knights after joining them in 2018 from the Cowboys.

Wayne Bennett

Wayne Bennett will be the first coach of the new Dolphins franchise. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“It (the Bennett lunch) obviously happened but once it happened, I moved on and worried about the game. 

“It was disappointing the effort we put in at the end because we’d almost got ourselves back in a position to win,” added Ponga, who had scored a try early in the second half only for a 10-6 scoreline to balloon with Manly pouring on three late tries.

“So my focus now is reviewing the game, recovering and then moving to next week.”

The Knights, who have played four games in 19 days, have a longer turnaround before meeting the Dragons at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.

Coach Adam O’Brien said he was looking forward to having more training sessions instead of quick turnarounds. He also felt there was no issue with Ponga’s commitment despite meeting with another club.

“It wasn’t a lunch date …. look, it’s his right, it’s in his contract – a contract that we wrote,” O’Brien said.

“I’m comfortable because I don’t see a dip in any of his preparation, his hunger at training. That hasn’t wavered and usually I’ve got a radar out for that stuff,” he said.

“I want him to make the best decision with all the information on the table, then there’s no regrets. If he chooses to stay then he’s made the choice with all the facts.

“I’m really comfortable with all of that and so are his teammates.”

Boyle, Tonegato share NRLW Dally M

Broncos prop Millie Boyle and Dragons fullback Emma Tonegato created history when they were named joint winners of the NRLW Dally M Medal award.

They each earned maximum points in the final round of voting to tie on eight points at the top of the leaderboard.

Tonegato will be looking to add to the trophy cabinet on Sunday when St George Illawarra take on the Roosters in the grand final at Redcliffe but Boyle will be a frustrated onlooker after her Broncos were eliminated in the semis last weekend by the Tricolours in an enormous upset.

She scored four tries in six games for the Dragons this season and also added three assists while running for 967 metres, which was second only in the competition to Boyle (990).

Boyle missed a match due to COVID-19 which could have been her chance to win the award outright.

Tonegato also took out the tackle of the year award for her hit on Roosters centre Sergis in Round 5. 

St George Illawarra rookie Jamie Soward was named coach of the year, Gold Coast’s Brittany Breayley-Nati was a popular choice as captain of the year while teammate Shaniah Power took home try of the year honours for her individual effort against the Broncos in Round 4.

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