Phil Gould begs NRL to open the war chest to secure Kalyn Ponga

Millions of dollars is what it will take to secure Kalyn Ponga but Phil Gould says the NRL should do whatever it takes to keep him at the Newcastle Knights.

Phil Gould has implored the NRL to act now and help the Knights sign up Kalyn Ponga for the long term so as to avoid a raid from a potentially cashed up Rugby Australia.

Having cut Israel Folau loose there is every chance if they do not lose in court action that Rugby Australia could make a raid on the rugby league ranks as they have in the past.

Ponga could become a prime target not just for RA but also the New Zealand Rugby Union or French Rugby and Gould is worried that suitors will soon come calling after the Knights star, especially after he only enhanced his reputation with a sensational second half in Queensland’s State of Origin I victory.

The 21-year-old had played just a handful of NRL games when he joined the Knights, meaning his contract was huge for his experience level as of now it is estimated to be between $600,000 and $750,000 per season.

Gould estimated that could double for Ponga’s next deal and he says the NRL should do all it can to help him stay in the game, even if it means opening the long-forgotten marquee player war chest.

“Kalyn could go to European rugby and earn $2.5 million a year. God knows what he could earn at the All Blacks with endorsements and all that type of thing,” Gould said on his Six Tackles with Gus podcast, speaking with James Bracey.

Kalyn Ponga starred for the Maroons in Origin I.

“It’s also up to the NRL, I believe. The NRL have got to assist the Knights in keeping Kalyn Ponga.

“He’s a marquee player in our game. The NRL have got to find endorsements and opportunities for him, and make him a part of their marketing.

“He’s young, he’s fresh, he’s new, he’s talented, he’s popular with the kids. The NRL should be marketing this fella and he should be the face of the NRL.

“You should never risk losing Kalyn Pongas and [James] Tedescos and these types of players from our game. They’ve got to help the Newcastle Knights.

“That’s what I would do, if I was running the game. I wouldn’t have rugby league losing Kalyn Ponga and the Knights wouldn’t lose him either.”

The NRL established a marquee player war chest in 2014 to be used in exceptional circumstances but has never made use of it as yet due to concerns around favouritism but it is there.

Rival NRL clubs can’t formally negotiate with Ponga until November 1, 2020 but according to Gould the Knights should try and table him a new deal now.

“My belief is that I never have a player underpaid. If I think he’s on the wrong money, I try to fix it the best way that we can,” Gould said.

“And no one else — no other team in the NRL, or the New Zealand All Blacks, or the European (rugby]) cherry-pickers — can pay him over the next two years. There’s only one person can pay him: his current employer.

“So if you keep him on the same money he’s on right now, when clearly his market value would be significantly greater, then you reduce your chances of extending his deal further down the line.

Dylan Napa and Ponga celebrate their win.

“It’s a give and take. ‘Kalyn, we’re prepared to pay you more money now, but we want another two or three years on the contract’.

“If we put you on more money, we’d like to extend your contract by another three years. So, let’s do a five-year deal for a housewife, car and kids and all the trimmings that go with it’.

“And that’s the offer, that’s how you go from there.”

Gould said he would make Ponga a million dollar a year player if he were running the Knights.

“For me, that’s the conversation I have with Kalyn. ‘Kalyn, I can put you $900,000 a year or $1 million a year, right now. But I want to do that for five years’,” he said.

“If Kalyn Ponga refuses that contract — if you say to him, ‘look, I’ll put you on $900,000, the $1 million, then $1.1 million, then $1.3 million, then $1.5 million for the next five years, let’s do the deal’ — and he says ‘no’, I’m saying, ‘All right, I’m gonna have a real problem in two years’ time’.

“If he’s on $600,000 for the next two years, and I’m offering him $800,000 and $900,000 (over those years), that’s a half a million dollars more money straight away.

“You’ve got to use the years on the contract to negotiate the next few. You get him at good value, but then he gets an increase, he gets another half a million dollars.”

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