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Seibold hits back at Knights CEO over Ponga poaching claim

Broncos coach Anthony Seibold insists the prospect of Kalyn Ponga joining the club is "pie in the sky sort of stuff" and says they have not had any discussions about securing the Knights fullback.

Seibold was responding to Newcastle CEO Phil Gardner’s comments on Wednesday that the Knights regarded Brisbane as a greater threat than New Zealand rugby with regard to Ponga’s long-term future.

"If we had open slather of course I’d go for Kalyn Ponga because he’s an outstanding player but every club has got a salary cap and it is not like the [English] Premier League where you can pay what you want for a player," Seibold said.

"Certainly Kalyn hasn’t been in any conversation [with the Broncos]. I think any club in the competition would want someone like Kalyn in their group regardless of what position he plays.

"We certainly haven’t spoken about him so I am not sure where that came from. We are guided by a salary cap, so that is pie in the sky sort of stuff."

We'd like Kalyn to stay till he's 45

Gardner also denied negotiations around a new contract extension for Ponga would include a specific clause allowing him to pursue a code switch with the All Blacks in time for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday night that Newcastle's upgraded offer would have an option in Ponga's favour for his final year related to moving to rugby union.

Ponga is able to formally field offers from rival NRL clubs as of November 1, with Gardner describing himself as a "desperate suitor" in wanting to tie his fullback down long-term.

The Knights are keen to have Ponga on their books for as long as possible and have previously discussed an extension through until the end of 2025, though have since resolved that an upgrade on his current deal through to 2023 is more realistic.

With Ponga's salary expected to push him into rarefied $1 million-a-season air, a four-year upgrade would be the largest contract in Newcastle's history.

As for the oft-suggested theory of the All Blacks luring Ponga away from the Knights, Gardner believes Brisbane – who signed the Queensland fullback to a development scholarship as a 13-year-old – pose a greater threat.

"I think they're a bigger threat to be honest with you rather than the All Blacks," Gardner said.

"This All Blacks thing might be real, it might not be real. I don't really know.

"But certainly you look at who the big club is with the money that they can splash out on him, certainly the Broncos would be a club.

"That's why we'd like to get a deal done sooner rather than later. If he goes to the open market it will be a harder deal for us.

"I've always said publicly, I think KP will take less money to stay here. I think he's happy, I think the family's happy here.

"But at the end of that, they'll have their view on all of that and I've found all dealings with the Ponga family to be really honourable and up front. If they give you their word they'll keep it.

"At this stage we're hoping that we can get something done reasonably quickly."

Ponga has spoken previously of his desire to represent the All Blacks, saying last year "If I was to go back to rugby union, I'd strive for that black jumper. It's the pinnacle."

He played rugby union as a teenager and lived in New Zealand from the age of eight to 13, and understands Kiwi Super Rugby franchises have previously approached the Ponga camp about his interest in returning to the 15-a-side game.

Ponga wants to be better at back

Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen – who finished up at last year's World Cup – was an unabashed fan of Ponga.

But his successor Ian Foster is yet to comment on the latest round of reports linking the 21-year-old to the All Blacks, while new NZRU CEO Mark Robinson did not respond to requests for comment from

The Knights and the NRL made an unprecedented joint-statement in July last year, describing a reported approach to Ponga by ex-Wallabies coach Michael Cheika as "inappropriate" and "extremely disappointing".

Gardner said any contract signed by Ponga "will be a standard NRL contract".

"If any player decided they wanted to go and play a different code than us it becomes problematic for us," he said.  

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