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NRL open to adding surnames to back of jerseys: Abdo

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo says the game will consider adding player surnames to the back of jerseys as suggested by Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga.

Abdo helped launch the 2021 Telstra Premiership at Sydney's White Bay Cruise Terminal on Thursday, unveiling the campaign's slogan of Defy Impossible alongside representatives from each club.

Ponga, who was among the stars present at the launch, took to Instagram on Wednesday to ask the NRL to "put names on the back of our jerseys" - and he was met with plenty of support. 

Advocates have argued that creating personalised jerseys would increase merchandise sales, a la the NBA, NFL and soccer.

"Absolutely [we'd consider it]. I like it. I think anything that connects the players with the fans is good," Abdo told

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"If I think about my own son and daughter, how much they would love to have a shirt with Ponga written on it, I think it's a good idea.

"We have to work through it because obviously there are contractual elements to that, but I think it's a good idea. We've seen it work in other sports and we'll certainly take a look at it."

The UK Super League allows its players to select their own number as well as having their names printed on jerseys.

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Ponga believes the addition of surnames to NRL tops is a "cool idea" but understands "everyone's got their own opinion".

"I don't know what the odds are or how likely it is, but I think some players would like to see it as well," he told

The Knights pin-up would want a jersey from outgoing Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck if the concept came to life.

"I caught up with [Tuivasa-Sheck] and had a chat. We spoke on Instagram a little bit. It's pretty cool or funny how everyone jumped on top of [the idea]," the 22-year-old said.

"Maybe if Roger gives me his jersey anyway I'll be happy."

Elsewhere, Panthers co-captain Nathan Cleary won a kicking competition against players from the other 15 teams to win $20,000 donated by Telstra for grassroots club Colyton Colts.

Cleary, kicking from the wharf onto a pontoon with posts, hit the crossbar on the first of his two shots to earn the most points - beating the Storm's Cameron Munster in a reversal of the 2020 grand final.

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With the season kicking off on March 11, Abdo said trial form had thrown him for a loop and he couldn't settle on a pick for the premiership, though his heart is with the Manly Sea Eagles.

The CEO feels Defy Impossible is a fitting motto after the NRL was among the first sports to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think 2020, we defied impossible," he said.

"We worked really hard to get back on the field and do it safely and complete 180 games together as a rugby league community.

"And then if you take that and extend it to the athletes, they defy impossible each and every week. We saw some amazing feats on-field last year. I reckon this year we're going to see even more.

"The rule changes mean it's going to be even more unpredictable and it's going to be faster. It's a credit to [the players] - I believe we have the best athletes playing a sport like ours anywhere in the world."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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