Mitchell Pearce (l) says Kalyn Ponga (r) would pair well with him in the halves at Newcastle.Mitchell Pearce has backed Kalyn Ponga to succeed in Newcastle’s halves next year if coach Nathan Brown makes the move.
Brown revealed last month he would speak to Ponga over the off-season about a possible switch from fullback to five-eighth for 2019, and that he would leave the decision in the 20-year-old’s hands.
And Pearce said if Ponga was moved into the halves to accompany him it would be a great fit for the Queensland State of Origin rookie after he led the club for try assists, linebreak assists, linebreaks and tackle busts this year.
“I definitely think that’s where there’s no doubt his game suits that position,” Pearce told AAP.
“There were times there he was only our chief ball-player when I was out and different guys (were out).
“Being a young guy and still coming up with match-winning plays in a team that as far as stats go isn’t winning the play-the-ball and the run metres and that sort of stuff.
“It’s quite hard to play as a half with that.”
Ponga was named the Knights players of the year on Tuesday night after his first full NRL season, while he could still become the youngest ever Dally M Medal winner in grand final week.
Pearce and Ponga played together in just 11 games this year, as they battled injuries and struggled to find momentum together in their first year at the rebuilding club.
However they found success in their one game together in the halves, as Ponga made the switch against Penrith in round 23 before he was ruled out for the final fortnight with injury.
“I knew once I started training with him I could see how good he was,” Pearce said.
“Guys that play long careers, you can see a twinkle in their eyes when they’re 19 or 20. You can tell they’re going to kick on. Especially young halves or fullbacks, you can tell if they’ve got it.
“You can tell he’s got that look in his eyes. You can see that straight away, the way he talks, the way he holds himself and sees the game.
“There was no doubt he was going to do well but I think he’s blown everyone’s mind how well he’s done.”