Ponga proving the hype and money were on the mark
Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown has always been open and honest, and his assessment of the season ahead was no different in the midst of a gruelling preparation.
In a pre-season chat with Big League magazine, Mitchell Pearce was a hot topic, as was the excitement that had been building among fans since the NSW halfback arrived.
Brown also spoke about seeking a contract renewal in the Hunter, to which he promptly replied that he didn't put in all this hard work to let someone else reap the rewards.
As is the case with the Knights in 2018, the conversation drifted onto Kalyn Ponga, the large sum of money that lured him away from Townsville and the expectation that comes with what is rumoured to be the biggest contract ever offered to a teenager.
At the time Ponga signed, he was 18 and you could count the number of NRL games he had played on one hand.
This was a kid signing a five-year, multi-million dollar deal. It was huge at the time.
Brown talked through all of this and his belief the Knights had signed not only one of the most exciting young players in the game, but someone truly special.
At one point, however, Brown as asked whether he was keen to keep expectations and attention on Ponga as low as possible, and he replied: "You have to be mindful that he's only 19. If he was an apprentice builder, you wouldn't get him to build your mansion, would you?"
However, now that we've seen what Ponga can do, it's obvious he's already on the tools and the foundations for said mansion appear sturdy.
He's too young for this kind of pressure, but he's too talented for everyone to ignore. He's too humble, too gifted and too much of a superstar in the making not to be talking about him.
He's the kind of player that attracts new fans to the game, the same way as he will excite those who've been around forever and who think they've seen it all.
Ponga could be Newcastle's answer to Benji Marshall – the guy who was idolised by kids all over the world when he burst onto the scene. All of this is ahead of Newcastle's young fullback, who hasn't even played 20 NRL games yet.
Even Brown can't play this one down – Ponga is leading the Dally M Medal count after eight rounds.