NRL fans and commentators are questioning why Kalyn Ponga wasn't taken off for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) in the dying stages of Newcastle's thrilling win over Canberra on Sunday. Ponga kicked the game-winning penalty goal in the second period of extra time to give the Knights a 30-28 victory and end the Raiders' season.
Referee Ashley Klein originally called six-again for the Knights, but then blew a penalty after Ponga was crunched in a ferocious tackle and dropped the ball. Ponga converted the ensuing penalty kick, and the Knights held on for an extraordinary finals victory.
But questions have been asked as to why Ponga was allowed to stay on the field to take the winning kick after he lay motionless for a number of seconds following the tackle. Jack Wighton appeared to collect Ponga in the head with his arm, before the Newcastle fullback's head was propelled straight into the ground in violent fashion.
Ponga lay flat on his back for a number of seconds without moving, before getting to his feet with the help of teammates. The fullback was spoken to by the trainer, who gave Ponga the all-clear to keep playing and take the kick.
"He looks in trouble here," Billy Slater said in commentary for Channel 9. Andrew Johns desperately asked "can he kick?", before Brad Fittler said: "The Bunker should come into play and be looking at this because if he gets called for an HIA he'll have to come straight off for 15 minutes."
Should Kalyn Ponga have gone off for an HIA?
Many were left questioning why an HIA wasn't ordered by the Newcastle trainer or the NRL's independent doctor, especially considering Ponga's history of concussions. While the incident wouldn't have affected the outcome because someone else would've slotted the kick anyway, a failed HIA could have had huge ramifications for next weekend's clash with the Warriors.
Under league rules, a player can't play for 11 days if they fail an HIA and the incident is deemed a category one. Considering Ponga's extensive history of concussions, even a category two could trigger a stand-down period.
Discussing the situation after the game, Ponga said: "I was definitely OK to make the kick ." But Raiders fans were left crying foul considering Joseph Tapine had been ordered to undergo an HIA in the dying seconds of regulation time, meaning he missed the 10 minutes of extra time as a result.
"Ponga allowed to stay on the field after supposedly being hit in the head! No HIA protocol, but whatever," one fan wrote on social media. Another asked: "Why wasn't Ponga sent for an HIA assessment before taking the winning kick? Clearly hit around the head on the prior play, history of concussion. Where's the duty of care NRL? Should be stood down for next week with his history."
Obviously Joe punched himself in the nose in the tackle to make it bleed.
Ponga allowed to stay on the field after supposedly being hit in the head!
No HIA protocol, but whatever. https://t.co/jvOQe3Eupp
— Kaz (@RipKaz44) September 10, 2023
What’s more garbage is Ponga’s head hits the ground and doesn’t get sent for a HIA
— Mark Grace (@mgrace) September 10, 2023
So explain why Ponga wasn’t sent for a HIA but was then allowed to take the penalty shot 🤷♂️
— Mac Unicomb (@MacUnicomb) September 10, 2023
He did look out of it when he was laying there. That trainer will be the one to ask what his assessment was with him when he asked Ponga “I need to ask you”… few seconds later hes kicking. Any other head knock they take longer to check. Big sus looking at it.
— Official Benni 🇳🇺 (@ItzBenzi) September 10, 2023
@nrlphysio interested in your thoughts on the Kayln Ponga knock in the final minutes. He lay motionless. fell rag doll. I thought it was an obvious HIA candidate. Where was the bunker?
— Wendy Carlisle (@Wendycarlisle) September 10, 2023
Going to be tough next week without Ponga. How he wasn’t pulled for a HIA after that
Penalty in ET I do not know. Go the Knights
— Ben (@BennyP2323) September 10, 2023
I’m pretty surprised they allowed Ponga to take that final shot at goal, pretty obvious candidate for an HIA after that head-knock surely?? #NRLKnightsRaiders
— Ben Appley (@BenAppley) September 10, 2023
Newcastle cop huge Jackson Hastings blow
The win marked Newcastle's first in a home final since 2006, and ensures they will head to Auckland to face the Warriors next Saturday on the back of 10 consecutive wins. However they will more than likely be without Jackson Hastings after the halfback missed the second half and extra time with an ankle injury.
"It doesn't look great and I haven't had a chance to speak to the doctors just yet," Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien said after the game. "We tested him at half-time and he wasn't going to be able to contribute in the second half."
NRL Week 2 Finals schedule:
Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters - Friday 7.50pm, AAMI Park
Warriors v Newcastle Knights - Saturday 4.05pm (AEST), Go Media Stadium
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