Chambers: NRL should throw money at Ponga
As rumours continue around Rugby Australia's interest in Kalyn Ponga, Queensland star Will Chambers says the NRL must do whatever it takes to keep his Maroons teammate in the game.
With Ponga tight-lipped on his long-term future in the code ahead of Origin II on Sunday night, Maroons teammate Chambers warned the NRL risks being blown out of the water by massive bids from rugby's Wallabies or All Blacks.
Chambers is the one Origin star who can relate to Ponga's career options, with the Maroons centre having quit the NRL in 2010 for a brief stint with the Queensland Reds before returning to rugby league.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has already made one approach to Ponga and Chambers warned Australia and New Zealand rugby will up the ante if the NRL doesn't provide a financial top-up for the sport's latest whiz-kid.
"The NRL should help out," Chambers said.
"Yes, Kalyn is contracted to Newcastle, but if Rugby Australia or the All Blacks want him, they will get him. Money speaks all languages.
"Kalyn Ponga is the face of rugby league. He is the code's new superstar.
"If rugby union throws big money at him, he could walk out on the game and we can't replace a talent like him.
"Instead of whingeing about Rugby Australia chasing him, let's go straight to Ponga and say we will pay you whatever you want to stay in our game.
"We are the best sporting organisation - the NRL would be crazy to lose someone like Kalyn."
Ponga's salary this season is worth around $600,000 and it is only a matter of time before he joins the NRL's elite $1 million club.
But the 21-year-old could earn twice as much in the 15-a-side code.
The three highest-paid players in world rugby last year - Matt Giteau, Dan Carter and recently-sacked Wallaby Israel Folau - reportedly pocketed more than $2 million annually.
Money will not be the sole consideration for Ponga, who played rugby at 15 and whose father Andre has New Zealand heritage, but Chambers believes it is a critical factor.
"Israel Folau went to rugby union because of money, so did Karmichael Hunt," he said. "Kalyn would kill it in rugby union, absolutely destroy them.
"He plays both sides of the field, he can pass both ways, he has great footwork and he has a great kicking game.
"The kid is a talent and he played rugby union as a kid, so why wouldn't rugby throw the bank at him?
"If rugby union go hard for him, let's move heaven-and-earth to keep him in our game.
"Young kids want to be Kalyn Ponga. Young kids want to wear headgear like Kalyn Ponga. Young kids want to sidestep like Kalyn Ponga.
"He is the face of our game at the moment and if I was the boss of rugby union, I'd be saying let's go and poach this kid, he's played the game, he knows the game, lets go and get him.
"The challenge is for the NRL to stop it. Just give him what he wants and what he needs to stay."