AAP Rugby

Knights a “desperate suitor” of Ponga

By AAP Newswire

Newcastle chief Philip Gardner admits he is a "desperate suitor" trying to lock down Kalyn Ponga and believes NRL rivals Brisbane are a bigger threat than the All Blacks.

Ponga is off contract at Newcastle the end of next year and will therefore become a free agent to NRL clubs on November 1, with the Knights eager to lock him down.

Reports emerged this week that the club had offered a four-year $4.5 million contract upgrade to Ponga, which would include a player option for the 2023 season.

That would leave the door open for Ponga to walk out on the NRL and pursue his dream of playing for the All Blacks with a shot at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

But Gardner said the ball was in the court of Ponga and his father Andre - who acts as his agent - to agree to the length of any extension that could include an upgrade for 2020 and 2021.

"I'm probably an example of a desperate suitor," Gardner said.

"We would like that to be resolved as soon as possible, the length of the contract and the numbers.

"They are taking their time, and rightly so. There is still a lot of water to go under the bridge.

"We've spoken to the family about extending that (contract), we would like to keep him here until 2025.

"The family are saying the length of the extension if there is one probably won't be that long.

"That is the subject of negotiation."

Ponga has spoken about his desire to play for the All Blacks, having grown up playing the rugby in his junior days.

Gardner insists there would be no rugby clause in any contract that would allow Ponga to leave the NRL to play the sport.

Although that wouldn't be required if he was not locked in for 2023.

"If any player decided they wanted to go and play a different code than us it becomes problematic for us," Gardner said.

"It's an interesting thing. You remember Sonny Bill Williams getting on a plane to go (to France).

"We have to do as a club for all our players is make sure they are happy playing here for us."

Regardless, Gardner senses other NRL clubs could be a bigger threat at luring Ponga away from Newcastle, where he has played 40 games since arriving in 2018.

"When you look at the big clubs with the money who can splash out, certainly the Broncos would be a club," Gardner said.

"I think they're a bigger threat, rather than the All Blacks.

"This All Blacks thing might be real, it might not be real. I don't know.

"I think KP will take less money to stay here, I think he is happy here and the family are happy here."