KALYN Ponga won Powerball this week, figuratively speaking, and good luck to him.
I doubt you would find a single Newcastle Knights supporter who was not delighted about the news that Ponga has extended his contract with the club until the end of the 2024 season.
As Knights legend Danny Buderus said this week, Ponga is the type of player who helps fill stadiums and ensures eyes are glued to TV screens. Possessing a skill set that is virtually unique in the NRL, he not only excites fans but influences the outcome of games with moments of individual magic.
But with a top-dollar price tag comes a level of pressure, scrutiny and expectation that has proven above and beyond some players. Just ask Ben Hunt, Ash Taylor, Kieran Foran and Anthony Milford.
All were signed to $1-million-a-year deals on the assumption that they could guarantee success for the clubs who pay them. For whatever reason, they have been unable to uphold their end of the bargain.
In Ponga's case, the benchmark is likely to be as high or even higher than the aforementioned.
The Knights have been willing to make him the highest-paid man in their history because they see him as a "franchise player" who can eventually deliver at least one premiership,
As Knights CEO Phil Gardner said this week: "We are lucky enough to have had an Immortal [Andrew Johns] play for us. We think Kalyn has as much potential as anyone who has come through our club.
"We look at the great players who have come through our game recently in Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk. By 2024, we expect Kalyn to be mentioned in the same sort of terms as those players ... I have my confidence in KP. I know we will win a competition."
That's a big, bold statement, because in reality the Knights have gambled - reportedly in the vicinity of $4.4 million - on Ponga's potential. Just as they did in early 2017, when they offered an unprecedented deal to a 19-year-old with two NRL games to his name.
At 22, Ponga is not yet the finished product. He's not the No.1 fullback in the NRL, and last season he wasn't even one of the five nominees for the Dally M fullback of the year award.
He's yet to play a single Test for Australia, let alone become a regular in the green and gold, and he hasn't appeared in a finals match for Newcastle.
To justify Gardner's prediction and rank alongside the true greats of the game, he will need to ultimately stamp his authority on the NRL post-season, dominate at Origin level and establish himself as one of the first names on the team sheet when Mal Meninga selects the Kangaroos.
Yet like Gardner, I'm a believer. I'm confident Ponga can achieve all those things and, if he does, the Novocastrian faithful should be in for a golden era that will eventually soothe the heartache of three consecutive wooden spoons.
So what does Ponga need to do, to take his game to that next, illustrious level?
Well, with experience and maturity, he should presumably only improve. It's worth noting that he has played in only 53 NRL games. Most good judges agree that it's not until a player has made 50 or even 100 top-grade appearances that he truly understands his own role.
Moreover, logic suggests that Ponga's fortunes hinge largely on the players around him. There is no such thing as a one-man team, and the stronger the Knights are collectively, the better his chances of producing game-breaking plays.
I would also like to see KP develop his goalkicking prowess to the point where he is acknowledged as one of the best in the NRL. He's a good kicker, but a career strike rate of 76.6 per cent (95 goals from 124 attempts) is not quite top-notch.
In the past two seasons, he has handed over the kicking duties of his own volition to Ken Sio and Mason Lino respectively. I believe he needs to persevere and challenge himself to become one of the NRL's leading pointscorers, year in, year out, as Joey Johns was.
My only real query - perhaps unwarranted - is how much does Ponga hate losing?
According to his NRL website profile, he thinks people would describe him as "laidback, easy-going and relaxed". He certainly comes across as a very cool customer.
Not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve, but I still remember being at Bankwest Stadium last year, when the Knights were beaten 20-14 by Parramatta, in a game that had been billed as make-or-break for their finals hopes.
David Klemmer stormed from the field without even shaking an opponent's hand and exchanged angry words with a spectator. Ponga, meanwhile, was on the pitch sharing a laugh and a joke with the opposition, including his Maori All Stars teammate Brad Takarangi.
In contrast, whenever Joey Johns lost a big game, he was demonstrably filthy.
That's not KP's style, and fair enough. I've never seen Roger Federer smash a racquet or sulk after a defeat, and he goes OK.
But if the pursuit of victory provides positive motivation, hating defeat is the dark side of the force, and it can be a powerful thing. Many sporting champions swear by it.
Maybe it's just that the euphoria of winning is addictive, and the Knights have taken long than most to develop a habit.