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Kalyn Ponga, Tamika Upton share major honours at Dally M Medal

Star Newcastle fullbacks Kalyn Ponga and Tamika Upton with their Dally M Medal on Wednesday night.

Star Newcastle fullbacks Kalyn Ponga and Tamika Upton with their Dally M Medal on Wednesday night. Photo: Getty

Newcastle Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga has been awarded the 2023 Dally M Medal winner at a glittering ceremony in Sydney on Wednesday night.

Tamika Upton, also from the Knights, was named the NRLW Dally M Medal winner.

The 25-year-old Ponga defeated New Zealand Warriors star Shaun Johnson by a point to claim the game’s highest individual honour.

He finished with 21 try assists and 19 line breaks in his 20 matches, helping the Knights win nine games on the trot to finish fifth.

His dynamic attacking play meant he averaged 145 run metres per game in 2023 and broke 96 tackles.

Upon receiving the medal, the modest superstar said: “It’s a pretty crazy feeling standing up here in front of so much talent.

“I had an early season holiday and while I was over there I decided that I wanted to stop letting people down and start making people proud.”

Ponga joins rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns (1998, 1999, 2002) and Danny Buderus (2004) as Newcastle winners on the Dally M honour roll after leading the Knights back to the finals after finishing 14th in 2022.

Ponga was also named as fullback in the NRL Team of the Year, which featured four Brisbane Broncos and two from Penrith.

The NRL Team of the Year was: Fullback — Kalyn Ponga (Knights); Winger — Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Warriors); Winger — Jamayne Isaako (Dolphins); Centre — Stephen Crichton (Panthers); Centre — Herbie Farnworth (Broncos); Five-Eighth — Ezra Mam (Broncos); Halfback — Shaun Johnson (Warriors); Prop — Payne Haas (Broncos); Prop — Addin Fonua-Blake (Warriors); Hooker — Harry Grant (Storm); Second Row — Liam Martin (Panthers); Second Row — David Fifita (Titans); Lock — Pat Carrigan (Broncos).

Unfinished business for Upton

The 26-year-old Upton, who scored five tries in 10 games and also contributed eight try assists and 11 line breaks, helped Newcastle surge to the minor premiership with an 8-1 record.

The three-time NRLW premiership winner played a crucial role in the club’s maiden premiership push in 2022 and is eyeing back-to-back titles on Sunday.

“This is definitely not an individual award,” Upton said.

“From the moment I stepped foot there I’ve felt supported from the staff and everyone involved and that spreads to my teammates, I’m pretty lucky to be surrounded by the most amazing players and people.”

Upton also featured at fullback in the NRLW Team of the Year.

The team was: Fullback — Tamika Upton (Knights); Winger — Jakiya Whitfield (Wests Tigers); Winger — Julia Robinson (Broncos); Centre — Isabelle Kelly (Roosters); Centre — Mele Hufanga (Broncos); Five-Eighth — Tarryn Aiken (Roosters); Halfback — Ali Brigginshaw (Broncos); Prop — Shannon Mato (Titans); Prop — Sarah Togatuki (Wests Tigers); Hooker — Destiny Brill (Broncos); Second Row — Yasmin Clydsdale (Knights); Second Row — Olivia Kernick (Roosters); Lock — Simaima Taufa (Raiders).

Other winners

North Queensland Cowboys five-eighth Tahlulah Tillett earned the Veronica White Medal – Woman of the Year, for her outstanding community involvement.

South Sydney superstar Latrell Mitchell was rewarded for his work with Indigenous communities, regional NSW, mental health and grassroots rugby league with the Ken Stephen Medal – Man of the Year,.

Penrith winger Sunia Turuva was voted the Dally M Rookie of the Year after scoring 12 tries for Ivan Cleary’s side, averaging 166 run metres and more than four tackle breaks per game.

Cronulla’s Annessa Biddle, who finished second in the competition for post-contact metres (620), took home the NRLW Rookie of the Year award.

New Zealand Warriors Andrew Webster was named NRL Coach of the Year for guiding his side from 15th in 2021 to the preliminary final against the Broncos.

Gold Coast Titans coach Karyn Murphy received deserved recognition for taking her side to Sunday’s NRLW decider against Newcastle.

Broncos halfback Adam Reynolds, who will lead his Brisbane side into Sunday’s grand final, was awarded the NRL Captain of the Year.

Canberra’s Simaima Taufa was named the NRLW Captain of the Year for guiding the Raiders to five victories in their inaugural season.

Wests Tigers’ Jakiya Whitfield won the NRLW Tackle of the Year for her efforts in running down Sydney Roosters centre Isabelle Kelly in round 6.

Manly’s Haumole Olakau’atu’s was awarded the NRL gong for his hit on Melbourne Storm centre Justin Olam in round 7.

St George Illawarra winger Mathew Feagai took home the NRL Try of the Year for his 79th-minute matchwinner against Sydney Roosters in round 12.

Newcastle Knights halfback Jesse Southwell secured NRLW Try of the Year after outwitting and evading several Roosters defenders in round 9.

Cronulla’s Nicho Hynes claimed the Provan-Summons Medal for respect after handing his inaugural Paul Green Medal and jersey to Green’s children, Emerson and Jed.

Brisbane hooker Lavinia Gould won the NRLW Provan-Summons Medal for bravery. She regularly highlighted the rare kidney disease her teenage daughter Kaia has been living with.

Topics: NRL
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