Newcastle legend Andrew Johns is unsure if Kalyn Ponga is ready for NRL captaincy, but says the young superstar has no option but to accept the challenge.
And Darren Lockyer has suggested the struggling Hunter club could take drastic action on two other players stood down for failing to meet team standards this week.
Ponga, now 24, was placed in a Knights leadership group last year following Mitchell Pearce having the captaincy stripped, and then was made co-captain alongside Jayden Brailey ahead of this current season.
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He’s seemingly struggled at times to adapt to the position, and his leadership credentials have again been called into question this week.
The fullback was captured on video being kicked out of a pub toilet cubicle, alongside teammate Kurt Mann over the weekend.
Johns described the incident as “not a good look” but was reluctant to comment expansively while there’s an NRL investigation taking place.
“It’s hard for me to comment, because I lived a colorful life (as a player in Newcastle),” he told Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and the Eighth.
“It makes me sad (to see these things), not angry.”
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The eighth Immortal was asked whether questions over Ponga’s ability to captain are fair, or over the top.
“Probably those questions are warranted,” Johns said.
“I think he does (need the captaincy). He’s their best player.”
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Fellow league legend Brad Fittler agreed Ponga is still the best option to captain the Knights.
“He’s their best player. He’s the one the club is based around,” Fittler said.
“They just need him to lead, and he’s got to become a leader.”
Broncos legend Lockyer is of the same opinion, saying the way to become a strong leader is to learn from mistakes made.
“He’s young. He is still learning the art of being a leader,” Lockyer told Wide World of Sports’ QLDER.
“Given his age, along the way he’s probably going to make some mistakes on the field and off the field as a leader. But you’ve got to learn from that stuff and better yourself.”
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Ponga and Mann aren’t the only players in strife in the Hunter this week.
The Knights stood down outside backs Bradman Best and Enari Tuala for running late to a bus following the game against Brisbane.
Lockyer says the Knights have to set a new bar for the club with Peter Parr arriving a fortnight ago to assume the role of football boss.
Parr has sent a message with the penalty handed to Best and Tuala. But it’s a far cry from what the Broncos did in 2006.
Brisbane famously sacked Brett Seymour and Neville Costigan in August that year, and then weeks later won the grand final.
“(The Knights have) got to draw a line in the sand and say ‘enough is enough guys – if we want to be a better football team and win more footy games, then we can’t accept these standards’,” Lockyer said .
“It happened in 2006 at the Broncos, we had some discipline issues and Wayne (Bennett) ended up sending two players out of the club.
“If the discipline off the field is not right, you’re not going to win footy games.”
The Knights have three games remaining this season but can’t make finals.
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