Dynamic fullback Kalyn Ponga will be a Newcastle Knight until at least the end of the 2024 season after ending speculation about his future by signing a new multi million dollar three year contract extension.
And he says his chief motivation for staying in the red and blue is to win an NRL premiership for the city.
In a massive shot in the arm for the club and a huge vote of confidence in coach Adam O'Brien, Ponga has turned his back on potential interest from rival NRL clubs and the possible lure of a switch to rugby union to play for the All Blacks, to commit to staying in Newcastle.
He was already under contract for 2021 with an option in his favour for 2022 but that has been superseded with Ponga earning an upgrade for next season and an extension that will make the 22-year-old one of the highest paid players in the NRL.
He is expected to earn in excess of $4 million over the next four years.
"It's very exciting obviously," Ponga said.
"I've always said that I've always felt very at home in Newcastle when I signed a few years ago and first moved here. I'm excited. It is no secret I want to win a comp in Newcastle. I want to hold the trophy up here. It's a very proud moment for myself and the family."
Ponga is confident the Knights have the roster and the coaching staff to win just the club's third premiership and their first since 2001.
"I just think we are building towards something, I can definitely feel it. It's something I want to be a part of and am excited to be a part of," he said.
"Adsy [coach Adam O'Brien], I didn't know what he was going to be like and I had no idea who he was to be honest. But since he's come to the place, he's instilled a lot of confidence through hard work and obviously, he's grabbed that from years of experience under probably the two best coaches in the NRL.
"The roster - it takes a couple of years but we are all good mates - I've got a lot of good mates both in and outside of the team, some local boys, and I just want to be a part of the Newcastle Knights. I want to be a part of them for a long time."
Ponga admitted he didn't know what to expect or how long he would be in Newcastle when he first signed with the club for the 2018 season.
"The only thing I wanted to do when I first came here was to play NRL. That was the be-all-and-end-all for me," he said.
"I was in and out of the first grade squad previously and when I saw the opportunity to come here, my only goal was to play consistent NRL. The goal posts have obviously moved over the past couple of years and now I just want to win a comp for the city."
Knights CEO Phil Gardner confirmed there is no All Blacks get-out clause in the contract that had been previously speculated and said it was "a fantastic day for the Newcastle Knights and rugby league in general".
"Kalyn is that once-in-a-generation player that comes along whose ability on the field is equally as good as his ability off the field," Gardner said.
"Kalyn's become, in a very short period of time, the face of rugby league and if he's not the most followed male athlete in Australia, he's very close and he will be in the future.
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"We feel very fortunate to have Kalyn as a franchise player for our club and the region feels very lucky and fortunate to have Kalyn and his family here."
Asked where Ponga re-signing sits when it comes to the club's history, Gardner said: "We're lucky enough to have had an Immortal [Andrew Johns] play here for us but we think Kalyn has as much potential as anyone that has ever come through our club.
"He's a very modest young man, he's humble and he's a great leader of our club already.
"The players look up to him. When things might look a bit tough, I remember he came to me last year, he said, 'Phil, don't worry, we'll win a comp' and the confidence in saying that to me is something you don't get from a 21-year-old. I've got my confidence in KP. I know we'll win a comp."
O'Brien said Ponga's re-signing is a huge boost to the entire organisation and to anyone that follows the Knights.
"It's great for not only the playing group but for the club, our staff, our supporters and our sponsors," the coach said.
"Anytime you can lock up a player of his calibre for four more years is a great vote of confidence from Kalyn. He obviously can see that there is some potential here as a playing group and organisation.
"From our point of view, he can also see that the club is good for him as well. Everyone is a good fit with each other here. He's happy and we're happy - that's what it boils down to.
"And it's good for the game too. He's staying in rugby league and you want all your stars playing our game."
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