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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Ponga takes out top gong at Knights’ annual awards

After a stand-out year in which he scored 10 tries and booted 46 goals, Newcastle superstar Kalyn Ponga has been crowned as the Knights’ Player of the Year at the club’s annual awards evening on Thursday.

It’s the second time Ponga has received the Danny Buderus Medal – named after the legendary hooker who played a record 257 games for the Knights – in his short career.

Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien lauded Ponga’s impact on and off the field.

“He often gets recognition for his flashy plays and, while he can do some brilliant things with the ball, I’ve been most impressed by the things that tend to go unnoticed” O’Brien said.

“His defence, efforts off the ball and talk were things that impressed me.

“His toughness is something that is overlooked by a lot of experts, but even his harshest critic would acknowledge how gritty some of his performances were.

“It’s easy to forget that he’s only 22. We’re just skimming the surface when it comes to KP and what he can do in this game and with this club.

“I couldn’t be prouder of KP and, to claim the Danny Buderus Medal in a season where Danny returned to the club, is a fitting way to conclude our season.”

Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien with Kalyn Ponga and Danny Buderus on Thursday night. Photo: Newcastle Knights

Apart from Ponga, Kurt Mann picked up the Gladiator of the Year award after completing an impressive 631 tackles throughout the season.

Other winners included Chris Randall, who went home with the Rookie of the Year award, and Mitch Barnett, who was named the Knight in Shining Armour.

Connor Watson won the Community Player of the Year, and Luke Huth won Club Person of the Year.

The dinner was also an opportunity to bid farewell to the team’s departing stars.

Tim Glasby and Aidan Guerra are both retiring from the NRL after playing eight and eleven seasons in the competition respectively.

Knights Blake Green, Herman Ese’Ese, and Andrew McCullough are also departing the club.