NRL Fantasy 2018
Kalyn Ponga, WFB, $552,000
Before Newcastle landed the prized signature of Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga was the club's big signing heading into the 2018 season. The 19-year-old with the fast feet should add a new element to the Knights' attack and is one reason the club is confident of avoiding another wooden spoon this year.
Scoring potential: 4/5
Ponga is a huge natural talent with footwork that brings to mind Ben Barba at his peak, and despite getting limited opportunities at the Cowboys in 2017 he showed enough signs that he could become an NRL Fantasy gun. His first six games at fullback included three 50s and a 47, for an average of 52. Anything above 45 points a game is quality for a winger/fullback in Fantasy, and if Ponga can average 50 or more at the Knights he'd be among the elite players in that position.
He may be young, but Ponga's job security is as safe as it gets, having signed a big-money deal to be the Knights' first-choice fullback for the next few seasons. But can he match the kind of run metre and tackle break numbers he produced at the Cowboys, and make a habit of finding the tryline? He'll be a bigger part of the Newcastle attack than he was at North Queensland, but on the other hand opposition teams will be more focused on shutting down his kick returns now that he's recognised as one of his team's star players. He may also have fewer attacking opportunities at the new-look Knights than he did at a Cowboys side that reached the grand final. Newcastle will be keen to give him room to move in open space but a lot will depend on how quickly the combinations click between Ponga and new halves Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson.
Ponga's last appearance with the Cowboys ended in disappointing fashion, leaving the field injured in Round 24 after struggling through 46 minutes. In that time he actually registered a Fantasy score of -4, bringing his season average down to 41. That, plus a discount based on the fact he only played seven games last season, means he starts the new year with a break even of 38. The speedster shouldn't struggle to hit that score most weeks and if he lives up to expectations and scores in the high 40s – or better – he'd be a high-scoring cash cow and potential keeper.