NRL News: Knights face salary cap investigation over Ponga third-party deal, Welch hits back at kick pressure crackdown


Newcastle could face sanctions over a third-party sponsorship deal in Kalyn Ponga’s contract from 2020 with the NRL investigating the matter after a recent tip-off.

The NRL has recently looked into the matter after the salary cap unit was informed that the Dally M Medal winner was still owed more that $100,000 from a third-party deal from four years ago, as first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

An NRL spokesperson has confirmed the salary cap auditors are aware of the potential salary cap breach and are reviewing it but the Knights issued a media statement to say: “All third parties are registered with the NRL. There’s no issue with Kalyn Ponga’s contract and anything to do with third parties remain between the player and his agent to resolve.”

Knights officials and Kalyn’s father, Andre, who has handled his son’s financial affairs throughout his career have been interviewed by the NRL Integrity Unit.

The drama revolves around whether the deal was “at arm’s length” from the club at the time as per NRL rules.

Ponga has since had a new contract lodged with the NRL, a multimillion-dollar deal that runs until the end of 2027.

He is currently sidelined until July with a foot injury but the Knights have managed to win their past three matches since he has been sidelined to keep their finals campaign on track.

Welch hits back at leg contact overreactions

While his captain Harry Grant fronts the NRL judiciary, Melbourne prop Christian Welch has called for common sense around sin-bins for contact made with a player’s leg.

The Storm will fight Grant’s grade-one dangerous contact charge on Tuesday night, with the hooker appearing via video link.

Grant was sin-binned just before halftime in Saturday’s match for making seemingly innocuous contact with Cronulla kicker Dan Atkinson during his follow-through.

The 26-year-old was offered a $1000 fine for an early guilty plea but the club decided to challenge the charge.

Often given the Storm job of pressuring rival kickers, Welch questioned how making contact with a leg could be deemed worse than a collision with a player’s head.

Harry Grant is held up. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

“I understand the logic of protecting those players but maybe a little bit of common sense,” the representative prop said.

“It’s an interesting one when you consider any contact with the kicker is a penalty. But we’re worried about a kicker’s leg.

“Any contact with the head there seems to be a bit of, ‘That’s not a penalty’, or ‘That’s not 10 in the bin’.

“What’s more important to a person, their brain or a foot?

“I think it’s interesting that we don’t have such a focus on head-highs and concussions at a time when we probably should.”

While Welch, a former player-director of the NRL Players’ Union, wanted the head to be sacrosanct, he didn’t want to see rugby league follow rugby union by lowering the tackle height.

“I don’t think so. You look at a lot of concussions these days and it’s players going low and getting a knee to the head or hitting hips,” Welch said.

“It’s probably the safer tackle.”

Welch was also asked about a proposed ban on kick-offs or long restarts, which involve players taking the ball into a collision at speed, to also limit head knocks.

“You don’t mind taking the kick-off carry – it’s a tough one because you know you’re generally getting flogged,” Welch said. “It’s just part of the game and I wouldn’t get rid of it. It’s an exciting way to start the game and it brings fans into it.”

with AAP

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