Ponga’s head-knock hor­ror

Ris­ing su­per­star re­lives the skull frac­ture that laid him low

Rugby League Week - - News - BY TONY ADAMS

HE’S THE TEENAGE SU­PER­STAR WHO AL­MOST never was.

Ka­lyn Ponga showed he was up to all the hype at the Auck­land Nines last week­end, wow­ing the fans with his fast-step­ping skills and jus­ti­fy­ing the huge fee the Knights paid for him.

But the 18-year-old ad­mit­ted to RLW that his ca­reer could have ended two years ago af­ter a shock­ing head knock – a blow so se­vere that he’s had to wear head­gear ever since.

“I was play­ing in a schoolboy game and got a re­ally bad in­jury to the head. I ended up in hos­pi­tal for a week and the doc­tors and my fam­ily were pretty con­cerned,” Ponga re­veals.

“I suf­fered a hair­line frac­ture of the skull and it took me a long time to get over.

“Af­ter the week in hos­pi­tal I spent over a month at home and my head was pretty sore.

“There was some talk of giv­ing it away but once the doc­tors gave me the all clear, I was al­ways go­ing to play again.

“I had to take a good long break, and it took me a while to get my con­fi­dence back. “But it’s in the past now – I don’t even think about it.” Many be­lieve Ponga wears his head­gear as a tribute to his idol and Cow­boys team-mate Johnathan Thurston. He begs to dif­fer.

“Nah, that’s not it… I just don’t want to go through that kind of in­jury again – and the head­gear helps my con­fi­dence,” Ponga ex­plains.

The Cow­boys are rue­ing the fact they have lost the winger/ full­back for 2018 but aim to make the most of his spe­cial skills this sea­son.

“He’s a gun player – some­one very spe­cial for just a kid,” star utility Michael Mor­gan says.

“It’s a pity he won’t be with us long term but I can see him play­ing a big role for us this sea­son.

“He had a great off-sea­son train­ing with the big boys and he showed some amaz­ing touches at the Nines.

“He’s very ma­ture for an 18-year-old, and strong, and will con­tinue to develop.”

Ponga, who made his NRL de­but in last year’s fi­nals, loved run­ning around along­side the likes of Thurston, Mor­gan and Kyle Feldt.

“The ex­pe­ri­enced boys were great for me and re­ally helped my game.

“They have been there and done that and I am still new to it all.”

“There was some talk of giv­ing the game away”

HOT STEPPER! Ponga scored five tries with his freak­ish foot­work and sheer pace at the Auck­land Nines.

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