Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga are forming a lethal combination.
Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga are forming a lethal combination.

Stunning Ponga hitout has Matty Johns raving

RUGBY LEAGUE: Matthew Johns was given a blow-by-blow summary of the behind-closed-doors Knights v Storm trial match and says Kalyn Ponga's "electric" first hitout for his new club is the first step to a supercharged attack for a club desperate to stop 'winning' wooden spoons.

Speaking on Triple M's The Grill Team, Johns said Newcastle's 26-22 win over the reignig premiers on Wednesday would give Nathan Brown's men a big confidence boost, particularly at the attacking end, where the Knights looked "slick", according to Johns' mole who watched from the AAMI Park stands.

"From a Newcastle Knights point-of-view they looked very slick with the football, very fast. In particular he said Kalyn Ponga was electric. That's a great sign," Johns said.

Kalyn Ponga pictured in the Knights’ trial game against the Storm.
Kalyn Ponga pictured in the Knights’ trial game against the Storm.

"Newcastle in previous years they've been able to graft but they haven't really been able to get their attack going.

"You need to engage in the arm wrestle, I get that. You need to win the yardage game, I get that, you need to be able to defend good, absolutely. But it's your attack that gives you arrogance and confidence.

"The ability to score points is the thing that gives you a bit of that strut and gets you into the top eight, that's just my opinion.

"It's no good if you win the yardage game and you're really good at getting down to the opposition 20 and then you get there and you're just firing blanks.

"Knights yesterday, they looked great with the football. Ponga was electric and really importantly the relationship between Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga was very, very good in their first outing."

Newcastle have had a massive off-season after a recruitment drive that netted experienced representative players Aidan Guerra and Jacob Lillyman as well as former Storm hooker Slade Griffin, Pearce, Ponga and Connor Watson.

Mitchell Pearce in his first appearance for Newcastle — in private.
Mitchell Pearce in his first appearance for Newcastle — in private.

With Griffin also putting in a quality first-up display against his old side, there's a good chance the Knights will go into 2018 with a completely new spine of Ponga (fullback), Watson (five-eighth), Pearce (halfback), Griffin (hooker).

It's a huge ask to get four players new players in those key positions to gel without ever having combined before but Ponga's first half try, which came from a neat kick from Pearce is a positive sign for what's to come.

The forgotten man is 21-year-old halfback Brock Lamb, who will start the season as a back-up to Pearce and Watson despite a promising start to his career in a losing team.

Although there has been speculation Lamb would look to the market for other opportunities at NRL level due to the blocked pathway ahead of him at the Knights, Johns said he was in a good position to improve his career alongside the senior heads that had been brought on board.

"Young guys like Brock Lamb, there's some really good young players who have come into a first grade side with other sides' feet on their throat," Johns said.

"It's going to be really interesting to see how they develop in a quality side with quality around them.

"Brock Lamb I'm interested to see and another young fella, Lachlan Fitzgibbon in the back-row, apparently he had a real strong game yesterday and he had a great back half of the year. With a couple of really quality ballplayers around him I think the sky's the limit."



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