Newcastle Knights chief executive Philip Gardner has hit out over an “inappropriate” approach for Kalyn Ponga after Michael Cheika reportedly contacted the full-back over a potential code switch.
Ponga has two and half years left on his contract with the Knights, but the Queensland Maroons star is in demand.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has made no secret of his admiration of the Australia-born 21-year-old, who made his New Zealand Maori debut this year.
Wallabies boss Cheika is said to have been in touch with Ponga in a bid to lure him to rugby union, leaving Gardner distinctly unimpressed.
“It’s not surprising that rugby union have identified Kalyn as a talent they wish to get their hands on,” Gardner said.
“What does come as a surprise is that an official from their code would personally phone our talent despite the fact he has several seasons left to run on his contract.
“It is inappropriate for any contact to be made from rugby union – or anyone else for that matter – and it is extremely disappointing.
“The reality is Kalyn is under contract for another two and a half years with the option for a third year.
“Kalyn is a superb talent and quality person. He is a player we see being part of the Knights fabric for years to come. I can assure not only Knights supporters, but fans of the game, we will be doing everything in our power to sign Kalyn long-term when the time is right.”
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg also spoke out over the interest in Ponga.
“Kalyn is a wonderful talent and a fine ambassador for rugby league and the Knights, and it is not surprising that there would be interest in him at the appropriate time.” Greenberg said.
“The nature of this interest is certainly unorthodox. Kalyn has a significant period remaining on his contract and it would be disappointing to see any contact made to any player under these circumstances.”
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