Andrew Johns accuses Wayne Bennett of “poor form” over alleged Kalyn Ponga lunch

Michael Holland
Andrew Johns

NRL immortal Andrew Johns has hit out at Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett following reports he has held talks with Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga over a proposed move to Redcliffe.

Ponga has yet to decide on his future from the start of the 2023 NRL season and beyond. There is still a chance he could stay with the Knights if he triggers an extension in his current deal. He has until round 12 to make up his mind and the door is ajar for the Dolphins.

The Dolphins interest in Ponga has been well documented. Bennett is keen to land a marquee signing and Ponga is the only one currently available for 2023.

Bennett has missed out on a couple of big names. Harry Grant is one of them after he penned a new bumper long-term deal with Melbourne Storm. That announcement was made on Friday and may have pushed the Dolphins to step up their pursuit of Ponga.

Andrew Johns not happy

Reports are rife that Bennett met Ponga for lunch in Sydney on Saturday to discuss a move. The talks, if they happened, would have been the day after the Knights lost to the Sharks on Friday night.

Dolphins chief executive Terry Reader and recruitment boss Peter O’Sullivan were also said to be there.

Reacting to the news on Channel Nine’s The Sunday Footy Show, Johns was not impressed.

“I just think it’s poor form if Wayne flew down to Newcastle to meet with a player while they’re playing that season,” Johns said. “It would definitely be a distraction.

“I think it’s poor form to fly to someone’s home town, while they are still playing, to try to get them to go to their club next year or whenever.

“Wayne, in 2000, Justin Hodges signed with the Roosters (and so Bennett) put him on show in front of the team and sacked him, he played reserve grade all year. It’s different when it goes the other way. I think it’s really poor form.”

Brad Fittler calls for change

Also speaking on The Sunday Footy Show Brad Fittler says it is the system that is wrong and needs changing. The NSW Origin coach would prefer a window at the end of the season when all deals get done.

“It is ridiculous and an awful look for the game,” he said. “It is the worst look in our game, I don’t think there is a worse look. People playing for a club knowing they have signed for someone else.”