On the field Newcastle Knight’s fullback Kalyn Ponga is one of the youngest players however that has not stopped him from taking the NRL by a storm. In his first full season after joining the Knights, Ponga has already found himself not only in a secured spot in the first grade squad and a Queensland Maroons jersey but also the hearts of fans amongst every team. He is the calm natured, headgear wearing 20 year old with the words “keep it cool” tattooed on his bicep. A simple phrase but one that so many 20 year olds being praised daily and crowned a future immortal would find difficult to follow but not Kalyn. He seems unfazed as he glides his way around the field stepping players like James Tedesco effortlessly or as he gets mobbed by media and fans every chance they can get. You’d struggle to find a bloke more cool than this guy.
Despite the chaos surrounding him in the busy world of the NRL, Kalyn always appears relaxed, positive and collected. Even after his Origin debut in front of a sold out ANZ stadium in enemy territory, he seemed so laidback – like he had just been passing the ball around with a group of mates at the park. His personality and relaxed nature is just one of the reasons why he has quickly become a fan favourite.
“It’s not that I don’t care. I just tend to find the bright side of the worst things. Obviously I’m a very focused person but I find it easy to switch off and enjoy life outside of footy.”
It’s one thing to live by the motto and another to tattoo it on your body forever. It just shows how passionate Kalyn truly is about staying level headed and the relaxed guy we’ve grown to love already.
“I got that tattoo and I don’t think my parents were too fond or happy but I just said to them – this is me.”
One particular fan who has found a spot in her heart for Kalyn is 4 year old Amaya Clarke. The two formed a relationship during a junior training session earlier in the season and immediately took to each other like best friends.
“Amaya is this very, very cute four year old that for her age, the way she talks and the looks on her face, is quite amazing. I guess we’ve created quite a little bond there. I get excited every time I see her.
“Not only her but all of the fans that come up to our training sessions or games and show their support.
“The fans are awesome. I was always told, before getting here, that all the fans get right behind their team. Even when they’ve been struggling the support’s been overwhelming.
“Obviously since I’ve got here I’ve felt that. I love the support.
“But little Amaya is probably a little more special to me.”
Kalyn invited Amaya and the Clarke family to a training session last week to present her with a birthday present in the form of new headgear as she now wears the headgear when she plays just like he does and a box of cupcakes. To Kalyn’s surprise however, Amaya had a present for him too – Kalyn’s Book from Amaya.
“I was really shocked at the fact that she actually gave it to me and what was in it. The drawings are very cute.
“It just shows that for us footy’s not just a job. We have to consider how it impacts others. It’s quite special.”
It’s a relationship which obviously means a tremendous amount to Kalyn. For not too long ago he was just a young kid playing footy with his friends too. He is more than willing to act as a role model for young players like Amaya however he always found himself turning to his family. The majority of young players in their early 20s have turned to older players before their time for inspiration but not Kalyn. Without hesitation he credited his family for the person he is today.
“Obviously I played a lot of sport growing up but I was too busy playing to think about anyone else.
“My mum and dad have always been a huge impact in my life. They’re my role models.”
There’s no doubt however that Kalyn well and truly is a role model for children playing the game today. Already he has made a huge impact on Amaya’s life and potential future as a rugby league player and it is only expected that so many other kids just like Amaya will yell out “Kalyn Ponga” when they’re asked who their idol is.
“At that age, when I was young, the only thing I thought about was having fun with my mates. I never really thought about seeing it as a career or anything like that.
“If you’ve got ambition and have the love of the game and the hard work that goes into it hopefully it’ll get you to your destination.”
Kayln Ponga has reached that destination and has more than a future ahead of him. He is already being called a future immortal and continues to astound the NRL community day in and day out. At times, he honestly still looks like a little kid just loving life. And that is his advice to any young person looking to play rugby league.
“Just enjoy it. That’s the best part.”