New Ponga deal would delight skipper
Captain Mitchell Pearce is hoping Newcastle Knights are able to complete negotiations with Kalyn Ponga over a new deal.
The Knights are reportedly on the verge of signing the 22-year-old star on a long-term contract.
Ponga is already committed to the club until the end of 2021 but it's understood he is close to inking a five-year contract extension with Adam O'Brien's side.
Pearce is keen for the Queensland State of Origin representative to be retained.
Speaking of Ponga, who would command huge interest from rival clubs if he were to go to market, the skipper said: "I've said it publicly a few times that Kalyn is one of the best players I've played with, especially young players.
"Hopefully that gets sorted soon and no one will be happier than me, that's for sure."
Ponga, who is suspended for Sunday's meeting with the Panthers, has played 42 games so far for Newcastle, scoring 19 tries and kicking 84 goals.
Local junior Tex Hoy, who lives with Ponga and fellow teammate Connor Watson in Newcastle, will make his NRL bow at fullback against Penrith.
Pearce said: "I think Tex will really back himself, he's had a really big pre-season and from our point of view, there's no pressure on Tex. We know he'll do a good job for us and I'm sure it'll be the first game of many."
The Knights will keep hooker Andrew McCullough waiting for his club debut, after his switch from Brisbane as a replacement for the injured Jayden Brailey.
Watson will start in the No.9 jersey with rookie Chris Randall coming off the bench for his first grade debut.
Newcastle Knights are 16.00 to win the grand final.
The Knights are 2.90 to win their next game against Penrith, who are 1.44.
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