Wayne Bennett’s reported meeting with Kalyn Ponga draws Andrew Johns’s ire, reignites transfer window discussion

Andrew Johns has hit out at incoming Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett, accusing him of double standards and poor form for reportedly meeting with player Kalyn Ponga in Sydney.

Reports emerged in the Sunday Telegraph that Bennett and other Dolphins officials flew to Sydney on Saturday to meet with Ponga over his future.

The Newcastle fullback is currently contracted to the Knights until the end of 2024, but he has a player option for the final two years of that deal.

Ponga therefore looms as the biggest remaining name potentially available on the transfer market for next year and would be a massive coup for a Dolphins club yet to land a truly big name.

But Johns, who holds a role as a Knights consultant along with being an all-time great at the club, is unimpressed by any mid-season approaches from Bennett.

Wayne Bennett and the Dolphins are yet to sign a major star.(AAP: Darren England)

“It affects them [as players],” Johns said on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

“Kalyn’s carrying a knee injury, so you saw he was limited [against Cronulla on Friday night], but it would definitely have been a distraction.”

Johns also compared the situation to Justin Hodges’s at Brisbane in 2001, when Bennett dropped him to reserve grade after he signed with the Roosters for the next year.

“He put him on show in front of the team and sacked him and he played reserve grade all year,” Johns said of his former Kangaroos coach.

“It’s different when it goes the other way.”

Andrew Johns in a Blues tracksuit holds a rugby ball at NSW Origin training
Andrew Johns is a consultant and club legend at the Knights.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

The situation has again raised the debate around dedicated transfer windows after a summer of big-name players signing for rivals more than a year out.

The likes of Viliame Kikau, Brandon Smith, Isaiah Papali’i, Reed Mahoney and Apisai Koroisau each entered this season having already secured a deal elsewhere for 2023.

“It’s just ridiculous,” NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler said.

“It’s an awful, awful look for the game… it’s so negative and you’re going to lose fans.

“We just need a bracket at the end of the year where you do all your trading, that’s it.”

The issue is expected to be a key component of collective bargaining agreement talks this year with the NRL wanting trade windows and the players’ union opposed to the idea.



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