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Ponga opens up on thickshake-gate

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29th August, 2019

Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga says he did not mean to be disrespectful with his now infamous “thickshake” line and has defended ex-Knights coach Nathan Brown, insisting his former mentor never lost the playing group.

Ponga fronted Fox League’s Thursday Night Football to address a horror week, including his now-infamous response to news that Brown was leaving the NRL club.

The Queensland fullback made headlines for all the wrong reasons when he fronted the media last week following the shock news Brown was leaving and said: “I was at lunch having a nice strawberry thickshake, so I wasn’t too sad.”

Ponga admitted on Thursday night he had handled the interview badly.

“I can understand the way it came across,” he said.

“I spoke to Browny before that interview, he addressed the playing group and said, ‘Don’t make it a big deal of it’.

“Me being me, I came out, made that comment at probably the wrong time in the wrong manner and it’s been take a little out of perspective.”

Ponga’s quip drew harsh criticism but the Newcastle star said there had been no hard feelings with Brown.

K Ponga watches on

(AAP Image/Darren Pateman)


“Browny’s done a lot for me and after that interview I spoke to him again and he sort of addressed me and said, ‘Look kid, I understand our relationship’,” he said.

“He’s been awesome to myself, my family, my mum, dad, little sister. His family is also close to me.

“He knew it wasn’t disrespectful, but that wasn’t the way it came across.”

Ponga said his horror week had been a “learning curve”.

“I think when you’re questioned about your playing ability and the way you play, I can cop that,” he said.

“When you’re questioned about your integrity, who you are as a person, it doesn’t only affect you but also your parents.


“My mum and dad were pretty disappointed (with the thickshake comment) – my mum razzed me a couple of times which is fair.

“They know what I’m like as well and they know that whatever I say I never mean to be disrespectful to anyone.

“That’s just who I am. At the end of the day, they knew that.”

Brown had appeared to lose the Knights players, compounded by their 46-4 last round thrashing from the Wests Tigers, before he finally fell on his sword and walked away from the NRL club this week.

But Ponga said the players had Brown’s back.

“He never lost the group. That wasn’t the case at all,” he said.

“We knew we had two weeks with him and that we had a job to do and that was sort of the way he’d been preaching it as well.


“We were disappointed with the (Tigers) game. A lot of questions, not a lot of answers to that performance.”

Ponga said the Knights players had this week rallied around each other with captain Mitchell Pearce, David Klemmer and Tim Glasby leading the way.

“I haven’t been exposed to anything like this and for a couple of them, they haven’t either,” he said.