Just days away from the return of the Telstra Premiership, it’s safe to say that the nib Newcastle Knights are eager to take the field against the Warriors and for fullback Kalyn Ponga it’s even more special as he steps out for his 50th NRL game.
In addition to his proud milestone, he’ll also be lining up against one of the best No.1’s in the competition in former Dally M Medallist, Roger Tuivesa-Sheck, making the occasion all the more special for him.
The 21-year-old knows the importance winning in Round One can have in building a strong start to the season and also the talent the New Zealand club has across the field.
Although Ponga is excited to be back on the field and the battle with his opposite number, he admitted he’s more focused on his own job at hand.
Ponga: Goal-kicking, 50th and setting goals
“It’s exciting when you play some of the best in the game,” Ponga said.
“Roger happens to be one of the best in the game so if I can get one-up, I’d be very happy with my 50th game and first game of the season.
“They’ve got strike over the park [but]...we haven’t really had too much of a look at them at the moment.”
In less than 50 first-grade matches, the young man from Port Hedland has already achieved much to be revered.
He’s already represented Queensland on three occasions and won the Rugby League Nines World Cup for Australia, and he’s determined to continue adding accomplishments as he goes on.
“50 has flown by to be honest, I didn’t think I was at that number yet,” he said.
“I didn’t realise [it was his 50th game] until my old man told me last week. It’s pretty big. I know maybe for some people it’s not a lot, but I think it’s pretty big.
“From my first game to now, I’ve come a long way and I’ve enjoyed every single one.
“I want to be here for a long time and keep playing…I want to play as many games as I can.”
On the verge of reaching one milestone, Ponga admitted he’d love to one day hit the heights of 300-games, however admitted that looking so far into the future isn’t really his style.
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The two-time Maori All Star is intent on taking each day as it comes this season to ensure he plays his best footy.
“I don’t think I was too consistent last year, I think I can do better in that area,” he said.
“I’m just excited for the weekend. We’ve been working so hard for the weekend and for the season. That’s all I’m thinking about.
“Like my personal goal of being consistent, as a team I think we do as well. We want to win every week and if we can start well, hopefully momentum can take us.”