Cowboys players Jason Taumalolo (left) and Kalyn Ponga.
Cowboys players Jason Taumalolo (left) and Kalyn Ponga. DAVE HUNT

Cowboys admit defeat in bid to keep Ponga

RUGBY LEAGUE: North Queensland coach Paul Green is resigned to losing out to Newcastle in the battle for teenage sensation Kalyn Ponga.

The 18-year-old fullback, described by many as one of the most talented young stars the game has produced, has reportedly put pen to paper on a five-year deal worth $3.6 million to join the Knights, despite only having played two NRL games.

"Look, it's early days, so there's a cooling-off period, but we expect Kalyn to go there (to the Knights),” Green said.

"We're disappointed ... We wanted to keep Kalyn obviously, he's been in our system for a little while now ... but we'll move on and it probably takes some of the pressure off trying to keep some of the other big-name guys like Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott and Jason Taumalolo.”

Green said he was "not too sure” if Ponga, who the Cowboys first signed in 2013, had requested an immediate release but with him still having a year to run on his contract with the club he remained a required player in 2017.

"Kalyn's contracted to us for next year, he's part of our plans for next year and as such he's expected to play for us,” Green said.

"This is the competitive nature of the industry that we're part of, so I'm going to pick the best team possible and if Kalyn's part of that then he'll be in the team, simple as that.”

The Cowboys tabled a three-year extension to Ponga and his management, before settling on the NRL-owned Knights and their $720,000-a-year offer.

"Newcastle are paying what they felt they were able to pay,” Green said.

"If it came down to money we were probably never going to be able to compete if that's what was the most important thing, and I'm not saying it is, but clearly that's made up part of his decision.”

Ponga was born in Western Australia and spent time living in Mount Isa and New Zealand, before he and his family settled in Mackay in 2011.