Newcastle Knights, Kalyn Ponga, concussion, head shots, Andrew Johns, James McManus, health


Andrew Johns has called for Kalyn Ponga to be scratched from the remainder of the season following his latest concussion, arguing he is ‘too important to the team’ in the long run to be put at risk again this year .

Another great knight in James McManus also expressed concern over Ponga’s battle with head injuries, saying ‘football is a very small part of your life’.

Ponga suffered his third concussion in six weeks when he cut Matt Lodge’s lazy arm in the Knights’ loss to the Roosters in Newcastle on Friday night.

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The Newcastle co-captain and superstar full-back left the pitch for a head injury assessment in the eighth minute and failed the test, despite Johns’ opinion that it was “a pretty light touch”.

Ponga had previously failed head injury assessments in a matchup with the Panthers in June and the second state of origin meeting later in the month.

One factor that could persuade the Knights to rule out Ponga for the rest of the season is that Newcastle, 14th on the ladder and four wins outside the top eight, can no longer qualify for the final.

“They won’t make the semi-finals, so why would you risk a player like Kalyn?” Johns, a Knights training consultant, said on Nine’s Sunday football show.

“I think that’s it for the year. Just let him take time because he’s too important for the team.”

A battle with a concussion forced McManus into early retirement in 2016, and he filed a lawsuit against the Knights, claiming $1 million, but walked away empty-handed.

Ponga expelled from the field after a high kick

“Everyone is different in their priorities, but what I would say is football is a very small part of your life,” McManus told the Sydney Morning Herald after Ponga suffered a concussion in the Roosters game.

“It’s a big world over there, you have a long post-career.

“Quality of life after career is definitely an issue for me, so for me, I just want to see everyone who plays the game healthy at the end.

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“Everyone is different, concussions are part of the game, it’s just how they’re treated. How they’re treated will impact long-term quality of life.

“There are lots of other tests that can be done and neurologists in the country who can help. There are some at Macquarie University who have research in the biobank and we are trying to move that forward.

“We are moving into a position where there are better diagnostics, treatments and solutions. Things like this are important and need to be pushed.”

Ponga must have an appointment with Dr Chris Levi, a neurologist who has treated Boyd Cordner and a host of other NRL players battling concussions.

Ponga’s Origin coach Billy Slater thinks Lodge’s high tackle on the 24-year-old wasn’t as soft as Johns suggested, but he’s also worried about the best’s long-term health Knights player.

“You see these incidents here. It’s been this whole year. I remember when he fell on top of that third Origin (game). My main priority was Kalyn, making sure he was okay, and I’m sure that the Knights have his best interests at heart,” Slater said.

“He’s there for the long term and they want to make sure they have him for the long term.

“I don’t think he will play again this season either.”

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