'We're too nice to each other': Ponga's home truths

Knights dynamo Kalyn Ponga hopes it was the “honesty session” that kick-starts their season.

When Ponga and his teammates fronted for their pre-training review on Wednesday, coach Nathan Brown made them sit through every error they made and all the shortcuts they took in their 38-14 loss to Gold Coast last Sunday, with a view to making them more accountable.

After five straight losses, the Knights are running out of time, excuses and explanations, but Ponga said they were all committed to turning their year around.

“We’ve had a review of the game and a bit of an honesty session. There’s a few effort areas that we weren’t happy with,” Ponga said.

Three handling mistakes led directly to three Titans tries as the Knights compounded their errors by pouting, pointing fingers and shifting blame. Ponga put that down to frustration but said they all had to be harder on each other to become better teammates and a more resilient team.

“Losing is never easy, and you do get frustrated. That comes down to being competitive and what-not, but at the end of the day you’ve got to trust what we’re doing,” he said.

“We do believe in what we’re doing – we’ve just got to do it better and work harder – but it’s always frustrating losing.

“I think we’re probably a bit too nice to each other. There’s a few efforts where your mate’s probably not doing what he’s supposed to be doing and we’re like, ‘Oh, it’s alright’, but we’ve got to be more honest and accountable with each other.

“That will obviously make your mate better, which makes you better and makes the team better, so we’ve just got to be more honest and keep each other accountable.”

Though he scored his first try of the season, made three line breaks and ran for a game-high and season-high 234 metres against the Titans, Ponga was still less than satisfied with his own output.

In hindsight, reflecting on a line break in the ninth minute when he skipped into the clear, he wished he backed himself in a foot-race against opposite number Michael Gordon instead of kicking for winger Edrick Lee and coming up empty.

“I don’t know why I kicked it, but as soon as I did I knew it was the wrong option,” he said.

“That’s just a learning curve, and I definitely learned from that, so if I put myself in that position again, I probably shouldn’t kick it, I should just back myself.

“Just competing, I want to compete a bit more. Those effort areas, my effort areas on the weekend weren’t good enough.

“Obviously I made a couple of breaks and that’s all good, but there’s a lot of things off the ball I want to work on, so hopefully the boys keep me accountable and I can keep myself accountable as well.”

Ponga said the players can feel the pressure building on themselves, and their coach, and he knows a win against Parramatta at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday is the only way to silence their critics.

“We’ve just got to do our best to get a result. That’s the only thing we can do to relieve the pressure, I guess, just go out and work on those things we’ve identified,” he said.

“Each week we’ve sort of touched on areas we need to work on, then we go into the next week working on that area but forgetting the rest.

“What we need to do is put in an 80-minute performance across the board and relieve some of that pressure. If we get a win, the fans will be happy, so we just want to give them that win.”