Kalyn Ponga, Newcastle Knights, dad, manager, extension, contract, offer pulled, Dolphins, Wayne Bennett

Kalyn Ponga’s contract situation has been labeled a “sham,” and the Knights have been urged to “show some guts as a club and be the boss.”

It comes after a stunning twist was revealed during the Knights’ clash with the Dragons on Sunday.

News Corp journalist Dean Ritchie reported that the Knights had taken their three-year extension offer for Ponga off the table, which ultimately opened the door for the Dolphins to sign the superstar fullback.

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It was news to coach Adam O’Brien who was quizzed on the topic in his post-game press conference.

Knights officials told Fox League journalist James Hooper that was not the case, but News Corp journalist Phil Rothfield didn’t buy it and slammed the club’s handling of the situation.

“This entire negotiation is a sham,” Rothfield told NRL 360.

“The manager — his dad — is not really his manager, the CEO is on holidays in Hawaii at the height of negotiations, the general manager of football Danny Buderus is not involved in the negotiations and Clint Zammit — the head of recruitment — lives in Townsville.”

“I checked in with Newcastle today and Newcastle officials were adamant (that the offer wasn’t pulled),” Hooper responded.

“This is a text message from one of them, ‘no contract has been pulled mate. It wasn’t good to hear that during the game yesterday.’ So they are adamant that the deal has never been pulled.”

But Rothfield wasn’t convinced.

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“How would that person know? I’ve just explained that this is Phil Gardner’s baby and he’s in Hawaii,” he said.

“So Phil Gardner has pulled the contract?” Hooper asked.

“And he hasn’t told the coach?” Braith Anasta added.

“No he’s not (counting Adam O’Brien), he’s keeping everyone in the dark,” Rothfield claimed.

“That’s a basket case if that’s true,” Hooper said.

“It’s true… everyone knows,” Rothfield hit back.

“When Phil Gardner and the Wests group bought the Knights, the NRL directors said it was the toughest negotiations they’ve ever had to do with anyone because he’s really hard to do a deal with.”


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Hooper tried to clear up the confusion and reiterate that the Knights are certain the offer has not been pulled.

“The reality is that Phil Gardner has been doing this negotiation with Andre Ponga for months and months,” he said.

“They were going to announce the deal about two or three weeks ago, then the news got leaked into the newspapers and it blew up.

“I don’t know what’s happened over the course of the last couple of weeks but everybody at the Newcastle Knights today is adamant that that contract has not been pulled off the table.”

But this time it was Paul Kent that wasn’t convinced.

“Hoops, all those people that are adamant are not involved in it,” he said.

“So the head coach isn’t involved in signing Kalyn Ponga?” Hooper quipped.

“No he’s not, he’s not in the negotiations… he said that himself. He’s not involved in the negotiations, Danny Buderus has got no authority to do the negotiations,” Kent said before taking aim at both the Knights and the NRL.

“My understanding is that Gardner is the only one doing the negotiations with Andre Ponga — who is not a registered agent.

“I don’t know how this happens, I don’t know how the NRL allows it to happen.

“I don’t know how the Knights allow their CEO, as this deadline that Ponga is on gets closer and closer, they allow him with this contract still up in the air to go on holidays in Hawaii when this is vital for the Knights. ”

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Anasta, who is a registered agent, revealed that he has heard Ponga does want to stay at the Knights and questioned what the hold up is given his dad actually works in a pathways role with the club.

Kent gave some starting context on Andre’s role — and the position the club now finds itself in.

“I think he was given a job at the club… didn’t he ask for an assistant coach’s role and the club just said ‘please’? But they gave him another job elsewhere in their pathways,” he said.

“At the start of the year Gardner came out and threatened to sue anybody that said it was a salary cap rort.

“I understand it’s a minor role and there’s not a lot of money in it. But the fact is the club are bending over backwards to keep dad happy.”

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Rothfield began to highlight how player managers have a knack for leaking certain information to the media to control the narrative before Kent interjected to declare that’s the issue the Knights are currently facing — and he had a hard truth for the Knights.

“That’s a part of the problem… the Knights have lost control, Andre won’t give the Knights control of that, which is a problem. It really is a problem, it’s causing the club headaches,” Kent said.

“Show some guts as a club and be the boss.”

Meanwhile, Hooper reported that there was a tactic behind the original story being leaked.

“The mail is, the play is that they’re trying to put pressure on the decision to finally be made public because they can’t sit back on their heels for another three or four weeks,” he said.

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