Newcastle chief executive Matt Gidley hasn’t given up hope on fullback Kalyn Ponga joining the NRL club in 2017, despite him remaining on contract to North Queensland.
The Knights officially announced on Monday Ponga was joining on the club on a four-year deal from 2018 – the same day Cowboys officials confirmed to AAP they wouldn’t entertain releasing the talented youngster early.
But while Gidley on Tuesday reiterated North Queensland’s stance, he said the club would be ready to pounce if the Cowboys reversed their decision.
“Things may change and we’re well positioned to bring Kalyn (early) if they change their position,” Gidley said.
“I think it’s important that everyone recognises that Kalyn is contracted to the Cowboys for 2017 and we need to respect that.
“If the Cowboys decide to change their position, we would certainly entertain bringing him here early.”
Newcastle opened the door for up-and-coming second-rower Joseph Tapine to head to Canberra before the start of this year, after he signed with the Raiders for 2017.
And Gidley said he sympathised with Cowboys officials after they had done the hard work to develop the 18-year-old Ponga.
“It’s happened to us a number of times over the past 30 years,” Gidley said.
“We’ve developed players and we’ve lost them to other clubs, so I understand the Cowboys were probably disappointed.
“But there were a number of NRL clubs who were interested in recruiting Kalyn and some other codes as well.”
Ponga has played just two NRL games, making his debut for North Queensland in their 2016 semi-final win over Brisbane.
After impressing in under-20s for the past two years, he made six tackle busts and two linebreaks, telling enough for Gidley to indicate he could be the club’s fullback of the future.
“He’s a pretty dynamic ball-runner,” he said.
“If you look at him purely from a ball-running point of view, he certainly looks like a Benji Marshall or a Shaun Johnson or a Roger Tuivasa- Sheck.
“He’s certainly got that ability to beat people and to score tries.”
Gidley also stressed reports over Ponga’s salary, suggested to be as high as $900,000 per season, were “widely exaggerated”.
Instead, he said it was the chance to play with a young Knights team – who won just one match in 2016 – that won Ponga over.
“We were probably the longest odds at the start of this,” Gidley said.
“If it was purely down to financial reasons, Kalyn wouldn’t be coming to Newcastle.”
Ponga has admitted Newcastle wasn’t a likely option before he visited the club’s facilities.
“I was a bit in denial before we went (to Newcastle),” he told Seven News on Monday.
“I was like, ‘don’t like the players, never been there, I don’t like it’, but we went there and everything about it just seemed like an opportunity.”