Set of six: What we learned in NRL round 10

Knights star Kalyn Ponga eludes the Dragons' defence.

Knights star Kalyn Ponga eludes the Dragons' defence. Photo: Getty

Cool Kalyn on his way to greatness

Could Newcastle Knights phenomenon Kalyn Ponga one day become one of the all-time greats of the NRL?

That was the talk after the freakish fullback demolished the Dragons single-handedly in Mudgee.

Ponga, just 21 years old, scored two great tries and finished with a personal haul of 24 points in the Knights’ 45-12 thrashing of the Red V.

A silky ball-runner with an outrageous step reminiscent of Benji Marshall in his pomp, Ponga is a joy to watch with ball in hand.

Ex-NSW and Australia representative Braith Anasta believes the Port Hedland-born star is a special talent.

“With Kalyn Ponga I truly believe we are witnessing greatness,” he enthused. “This kid is going to be one of the greats of our game. His footwork is incredible. His vision, his deception.”

Pearcing performance

Mitchell Pearce is NSW’s ultimate scapegoat but surely the much-maligned halfback deserves another shot at State of Origin.

Nathan Cleary might have helped the Blues win the Origin series last year but the youngster is having a shocker of a 2019 season.

So is his NSW halves partner James Maloney.

They clearly can’t be picked for the rep series with both so badly out of touch.

Meanwhile Pearce has found some brilliant form in recent weeks and was outstanding in the wins over the Warriors and Dragons.

He knows the pressure and expectation of Origin, and is much more mature than in previous series.

Battle of Britain

History was made this round when South Sydney beat Canberra and a record six Englishmen were on the field.

The Burgess brigade of Sam, George and Tom met the Raiders’ three of Josh Hodgson, Elliot Whitehead and Ryan Sutton in the ACT capital.

It would have been seven if not for the injury to John Bateman.

English invasion: Tom Burgess in action for the Rabbitohs. Photo: Getty 

But it was a bruising encounter that the Bunnies, of course coached by England national team boss Wayne Bennett, managed to edge 16-12.

Souths have led the way with British players in the past decade, but Raiders have gone a step further and will have five in their squad next year when Wiganer George Williams arrives.

It shows there is some quality talent in the Old Dart that can cut in the NRL.

RIP Quentin

Sad news over the weekend with the passing of New Zealand rugby league great Quentin Pongia.

The 48-year-old was a hard as nails prop who played 137 NRL games for the Raiders, Warriors, Roosters and Dragons from 1993 to 2003, as well as captaining his country.

Cancer claimed the forward, who was working for Manly as the club’s welfare officer, at a relatively young age and tributes have poured in for the well-respected front-rower from around the rugby league world.

New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters described Pongia as “an icon of the game, a great bloke and a fearless player”.

Canberra coach and former teammate Ricky Stuart also paid tribute to Pongia’s renowned grit.

Quentin is the toughest individual I have ever played with and I know how hard he fought to beat this terrible disease.

“He will be sorely missed right across the rugby league community.”

You win some, you lose some

So the Cronulla Shark’s No.1 fan Scott Morrison kept his job as Prime Minister, but saw his team lose the very next day 14-24 to the Sea Eagles.

While many PMs in the past have claimed somewhat dubious rugby league allegiances – like John Howard with St George Illawarra – Morrison wears his Sharks support on his sleeve and is regularly spotted at Cronulla games donned in team colours.

Dogs show some bite

It’s tough times at Canterbury these days with their salary cap issues, loss of star players and coach Dean Pay only in his second season at the helm.

Their golden era, let alone reaching grand finals in 2012 and 2014, seems so long ago.

They are bottom of the NRL ladder and it has already been a bludger of a season.

Against the Gold Coast they were 16-0 down after 18 minutes at Robina, surely another loss was on its way. But they showed guts and real character to fight back and find a way to win 22-16.

Hats off to Pay and his men, what a display of courage and true grit.


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