Knights coach Adam O’Brien points to a three-way battle for the vacant fullback position as Kalyn Ponga has announced that he will make a permanent transition to half-courts this season.
talk over SEN 1170 Breakfast On Tuesday, O’Brien said the decision to move Ponga to eighth-five was made after he was eliminated after multiple concussions in the final stages of last season.
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«If we’re going to move Kalyn to six, now’s the time,» O’Brien said.
“Actually, we had five months. He took a very short break in October and then started training before everyone else. We changed his training schedule and he obviously got some body in the gym.
«He’s been training at six all summer and is doing a really good job at it.»
While there’s no guarantee of success, Knights fans can at least take comfort in the fact that O’Brien is open to trying something different after his disappointing 2022 campaign.
Newcastle had just six wins last season, finishing 14th, and it’s not clearer to see what their long-term spine looks like.
Mitchell Pearce’s departure left an important leadership vacuum that the Knights hoped new recruit Jackson Hastings could help fill.
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Hastings will partner with Ponga in the halves, and O’Brien is confident his new teammate will make the halving «much easier».
«It’s definitely a shoe,» O’Brien said.
“He knows the game well and he’s a general. He will lead the team, he is very vocal and very clear on what he wants those around him to do.
“This allows Kalyn to be herself and not overwhelm her with the responsibility of being a director.
“At the end of the day, you want Jackson to lead the team and get Kalyn to get the ball in the space where we need to put him. They work really well together right now.”
The big question to be answered now is who will replace Ponga and British addition Bailey Hodgson is the leading contender.
O’Brien said Dane Gagai and Tyson Gamble also «spent some time» in fullback training with Hodgson, who was there «most of the summer».
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“Strengthening this burn point remains a priority for us,” O’Brien added.
There will be a lot of pressure on O’Brien after last year’s disappointment, but the Knights coach said both he and the club as a whole can draw many lessons from 2022.
«While it wasn’t fun for anyone like the players, the coaching staff, the fans, I learned a lot when I look back on that season,» he said.
“I hope one day you can look back and say we made better or smarter decisions because we had this kind of season.
«I don’t want to do that again… but you also start to analyze things a little differently and make better decisions about hiring, how you prepare each week, and how you deal with challenges.»
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