Phil Gould fears Kalyn Ponga’s rugby league career is “in jeopardy” and is bemused about the Knights’ insistence on shifting the co-captain from fullback to five-eighth.
Ponga suffered his fourth head injury in the last 10 months when he collided with Wests Tigers second-rower Asu Kepaoa on Sunday afternoon.
The Queensland State of Origin weapon was knocked out as he braced himself for a tackle just under 80 seconds into the Leichhardt Oval fixture.
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Gould raised concern over Ponga playing at five-eighth, where he’s forced to make more tackles than at fullback, when pressed on Nine’s 100% Footy on Monday night.
“The people who coach him and work with him every day probably know best what position he should be playing. I don’t like to second-guess coaches for that reason,” Gould said.
“I just don’t understand the obsession these days with trying to move class fullbacks into the five-eighth position. Maybe because they can go and buy another fullback but they can’t go and buy another five-eighth.
“I just don’t know that’s the right position for him at the moment.”
Before Sunday, the last time Ponga was concussed was when he copped a high hit from Matt Lodge in July last year.
Ponga, who’d suffered his third concussion in three weeks, didn’t play again in 2022.
Newcastle then moulded him into a five-eighth over the summer, pairing him up in the halves with off-season recruit Jackson Hastings and handing Lachlan Miller, another new signing, the No.1 jumper.
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“My concern with Kalyn — and I’ve retired two players because of repeated concussions in my career — is the ease with which it happens now,” Gould added.
“I don’t see those knocks as anything over the top, (or knocks) that should be causing that sort of problem for him. It just seems now he reacts badly to collisions that are really quite easy, and that’s not a good sign.
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“I think his career is in jeopardy, to be honest. I don’t know how you sort through that.
“I get concerned more at the ease with which they get concussed and how repeatedly that happens.”
Paul Gallen is also worried about the way in which Ponga is sustaining head injuries.
“Not only is he getting concussed, not only is he getting hit and falling over and stumbling to get back up — he’s out,” Gallen said.
“Once he gets hit he’s out cold on the way to the ground. To me that’s the scary thing … It was a fair hit, but you see them in probably a fair few tackles in the game, and as I say, he was out. He never hit the ground and was in a daze; he was out, he was out cold, he was out cold from the time he got hit. So that’s concerning.”
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