Knights promote Ponga to playmaker
Connor Watson has let the secret out of the bag. Newcastle Knights that coach Nathan Brown is planning to do a 'Darren Lockyer' by switching boom fullback Kalyn Ponga to the halves next year.
Like Wayne Bennet did with Broncos superstar Lockyer to get him closer to the action, Brown will hand Ponga the No.6 jersey for the start of the competition.
"The plan with me and Kalyn is I'll try at one and he'll go at six and just see how it works out," Watson told The Sunday Telegraph yesterday.
"We'll do a bit of both. We both can play in the two positions.
"For me it's not really that big of a deal. If I play one, I'm happy to play there. I think it allows me to play more of my natural game anyway."
Ponga led the Dally M award until the final round after an exceptional season as the Knights fullback.
Yet he showed his versatility during State of Origin by debuting for Queensland as a lock off the bench.
Watson and Ponga are housemates in Newcastle.
"We've had chats and we just said we want to build our combination, it doesn't matter if he plays fullback and I play half, we just want to play together," Ponga said.
"Pearcey as well, we've all spoken, we just want to play footy together and build combinations.
"Whatever formula is the best for the team to get wins is what I'll do. Everyone in the team will do what's best for the team and to get the wins."
Both players are still recovering from post-season surgery but expect to be back in skills sessions in the next couple of weeks.
It will mean they're able to get started working on those combinations that were so disrupted by injuries to each member of the spine last season.
Ponga in particular is keen to be back alongside halfback Mitchell Pearce, who he knows can help take his game to another level.
"There's a lot of things in the game that I didn't really know that Pearcey does really well," he said.
"I look forward to evolving off him I guess and seeing what he can teach me. He taught me a lot last year but with him being out it was hard to play with him.
"Whatever role I play I want to get better at."
The laid-back young star has no concern about extra attention given his impending move to the halves.
His new position will make him a target in defence, while his form last season means the opposition will be working overtime to shut him down.
But he backs his teammates in should that happen.
"If they're worried about me it would be a good thing for the other boys," he said.
"When you get on the field and worry about someone, there's still 12 other players to worry about."
Watson, too, is ready to take anything other teams throw at him in his new role.
The 22-year-old played his junior football in the No.1 jersey and filled in there at the Roosters for four games in 2017.
He knows he can handle whatever comes his way.
"It's part of it. I did a good job there when I was playing at the Roosters," Watson said.
"I had Latrell (Mitchell) putting big torpies up to me and they're about as big as they can get so if I can catch them I should be right."
Another confidence booster for the team would be confirmation of David Klemmer joining for 2019.
While an announcement is still to be made on the NSW forward's future, the Knights players are ready to welcome him, knowing it will make their squad more formidable.
"It just takes our forward pack, we'd have two State of Origin front-rowers there," Watson said.
"It's been a bit tough for the guys here because the people who have been playing front row are in their like first and second year. That's only going to help them boys grow even more.
"It will help us get on the front foot. James Gavet has just come over as well - I didn't realise how big he was. When you watch them on TV they all look the same but he's a really big dude. He's going to help as well."
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