Ponga ready to rip into ‘crazy’ 9s
IF you thought Kalyn Ponga could light up an NRL game, wait until you see him in the Nines.
The Australian superstar has vowed to make the most of his electric pace and dazzling footwork in the open space of the nine-man game in this weekend's 12-nation tournament at Bankwest Stadium.
This will be the first time Ponga has represented Australia and says he is relishing the opportunities that will come his way against just nine defenders.
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"If you see an opportunity, take it," he said. "There will be opportunities all over the park. If you see something, don't be afraid to call it, go for it and have a crack.
"There is all this space and you will want to throw it around. Don't get me wrong - that will definitely happen because of the natural talent out there.
"I've got players around me that can do some pretty dangerous things so I will pass the ball to them as much as I can.
"The Nines format allows people to have a good time. It's a fast-paced game so there's always something going on.
"There is all this talent on display. It's actually going to be quite crazy. It will be game after game so people are going to have a really good time."
He experienced a mixed season with Newcastle given his lofty standing and reputation in rugby league which still included eleven tries, 19 line breaks and 90 tackle busts.
Ponga, still only 21, also averaged 140 run metres a match - a super effort given he played five-eighth earlier in the year. That ranked him eighth overall in the NRL.
Ponga's extraordinary footwork is certain to be a highlight of the tournament.
"I don't think footwork will be the only thing on display," Ponga said. "There are a lot of strong boys that are playing - scary big, like (Fiji's Maika) Sivo. Then you have flyers like 'Fox' (Australia's Josh Addo-Carr). I'm lucky to be playing alongside him.
"Look at what the 'Fox' does in 13-a-side, it's pretty crazy. His speed is freakish. I wouldn't be surprised if he has an excellent tournament.
"(New Zealand's) Shaun Johnson, we all know what he can do. He is a freak. I think Fiji will be a tough side to beat given their strength, speed and size.
"The team that holds the ball more than others will go a long way. But there will be more structure than just freestyle, throwing it anywhere. Structure can bring the best of players out and create more opportunities."
The Australians will have enormous speed and strike power through Ponga, Addo-Carr, Daly Cherry-Evans, Clint Gutherson, Mitchell Moses, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Kyle Feldt and Manly's Reuben Garrick.
Meanwhile, Ponga said he hasn't yet heard from new Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien since he helped guide the Roosters to successive titles as an assistant coach.
"I've heard good things from other people," Ponga said. "I haven't had anything to do with him so we will start to get going. We haven't had a talk about anything - he only just finished (at the Roosters)."
Asked about his future at Newcastle, Ponga only added: "I have been in the off-season - I haven't really thought about anything. I'm just looking forward to the Nines."