McManus urges Ponga to ‘put your long-term health first’ after another concussion

James McManus has urged Kalyn Ponga to make his long-term health a priority after another concussion put the Newcastle captain’s immediate playing future in doubt.

Ponga suffered a head knock in an early collision with Roosters prop Matt Lodge in his side’s 42-12 loss on Friday night and played no further part in the contest. It marked the fifth time this year that the Maroons fullback has come off for a head injury assessment and the third time he failed to return to the fray.

Lodge was charged with a grade-one high tackle, which will result in an $1800 fine with an early guilty plea or $2500 if he contests it and loses. There are now calls for Ponga to be rested for the remainder of the season given the Knights are out of finals contention and the increasing frequency of his head knocks.

The former Cowboy suffered a concussion against the Panthers last month and then another during the State of Origin series, which resulted in him being out for a week.

Ponga is scheduled to consult with Dr Chris Levi, a neurologist who has treated Boyd Cordner, Tim Glasby and many other NRL players after repeated head knocks.

Ponga was distraught after being ruled out of the game and was seen in tears in the Newcastle dressing room. While he will undoubtedly be keen to return to help his teammates as soon as possible – the Knights remain in contention for the wooden spoon – McManus has encouraged him to get the right advice and to put his health first.

McManus is in a unique situation to give a perspective. Also a Newcastle and State of Origin representative, McManus was forced into premature retirement due to concussions and then began a landmark $1 million lawsuit against the club, which the NRL last year stated was “resolved in the Knights’ favour.”

Kalyn Ponga is assessed by Knights head of performance Craig Catterick.Credit:Getty

“Everyone is different in what their priorities are, but what I would say is that football is a very small section of your life,” McManus said.

“It’s a big world out there, you’ve got a long time post-career. Quality of life post-career is certainly an issue for me, so for me, I just want to see everyone who plays the game healthy at the end of it.

“Everybody is different, concussions are a part of the game, it’s just how they are looked after. How they are looked after will impact the long-term quality of life.

“There’s a lot of other testing that can be done and neurologists out there in the country that can help out. There are ones at Macquarie University that have biobank research and we’re trying to get that going.

“We are getting into a position where there are better diagnostics on it and treatments and solutions. Things like that are important and should be pushed.”

James McManus during his playing days with the Knights in 2015.Credit:Getty

Ponga is one of the NRL’s biggest stars, a huge drawcard on and off the field. The 24-year-old is contracted to Newcastle until the end of 2027 and already there are calls to play the long game with the club’s most valuable asset.

“You have to look at him as an investment and as an asset,” said Queensland teammate and Rugby League Players Association director Christian Welch on Triple M.

“If you’re not going to play finals, what are you going to gain? If you have a long-term view of him … I would be shutting him down.”

Most commentators described the Lodge collision as reasonably innocuous and McManus said he may be getting more susceptible to concussions the more they occur.

“If I was to be looking at five [head-injury assessments] in a year, you’d be thinking about susceptibility, I know that was an issue for me,” McManus said.

“Susceptibility, a neurologist may look into that, that was something discussed when I was advised to retire. But he’s a young guy, I’m assuming he’s getting great help.”

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