Kalyn Ponga WINS the Dally M medal as Newcastle Knights star beats Shaun Johnson to top prize after stunning season and proves his mother wrong after pre-ceremony prediction

Kalyn Ponga has won the Dally M award and defied his mother’s pre-ceremony prediction after the Newcastle Knights star beat Shaun Johnson to top prize following his stunning season.

Ponga pipped New Zealand Warriors star Johnson to footy’s most prestigious individual award with six points in the final round of the season, taking his tally to 56.

The Knights star was at the heart of his side’s stellar run at the end of the season, in which he took Newcastle to the finals.

Ahead of the ceremony, his mother Adine was not too optimistic about her son’s chances, as he was an outside shot of winning, but he went onto triumph at the Sydney bash. 

Reflecting on the 2023 season, Ponga said: ‘It was pretty special. It’s something that we want to replicate next year. 

Kalyn Ponga has won the Dally M award following his stunning season for Newcastle

The Knights star's mother wasn't overly optimistic about her son's chances of winning

The Knights star’s mother wasn’t overly optimistic about her son’s chances of winning

‘I’ve been at the club for five years now and it is something I have never experienced before. It is something that the town wants and needs. As a playing group, we know that and we want to do it again. 

‘Definitely proud. Proud of the team, Proud of what the team achieved at the back end. We want to go further, we are definitely happy.’

The interviewer asked Adine before the ceremony: ‘Do you think he’s a chance of winning tonight? Hopeful?’

‘Ooo,’ she replied before looking at her son, who was shaking his head. ‘No, [but] I’ll be proud no matter what.’ 

Johnson was widely tipped to take home the award after steering the Warriors into the top four in their first year back in New Zealand since 2019.

But fullback Ponga, who was part of a Newcastle side that locked in a finals spot with nine straight wins, pipped Johnson at the post at Royal Randwick on Wednesday night.

Ponga’s victory came despite the 25-year-old missing six weeks in the early part of the season to seek treatment in Canada for repeated concussions.

The Newcastle skipper did not enter the top 10 in voting until after round 22 and only snatched the lead in the penultimate round of the regular season.

Both he and Johnson rested in the final week of the season.

Ponga missed six weeks of the season after suffering from concussion

Ponga missed six weeks of the season after suffering from concussion 

North Queensland’s Scott Drinkwater polled third but was ruled ineligble due to suspension.

There was some solace for the Warriors with Andrew Webster named coach of the year after an impressive maiden campaign.

NRL grand finalists Brisbane had four players in the NRL team of the year, while their opponents Penrith had to make do with just two spots.

Electrifying Newcastle fullback Tamika Upton was awarded the NRLW Dally M Medal after helping the Knights into a second-straight grand final.

Rising Cronulla star Annessa Biddle was named winner of the Dally M NRLW rookie of the year, while Gold Coast mentor Karyn Murphy was hailed as the best coach in the women’s game after guiding the Titans into their maiden grand final.



Player of the year: Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle)

Rookie: Sunia Turuva (Penrith)

Captain: Adam Reynolds (Brisbane)

Coach: Andrew Webster (Warriors)

NRL team of the year: Kalyn Ponga, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Herbie Farnworth, Stephen Crichton, Jamayne Isaako, Ezra Mam, Shaun Johnson, Payne Haas, Harry Grant, Addin Fonua-Blake, Liam Martin, David Fifita, Patrick Carrigan.


Player of the year: Tamika Upton (Newcastle)

Rookie: Annessa Biddle (Cronulla)

Captain: Simaima Taufa (Canberra)

Coach: Karyn Murphy (Gold Coast)

NRLW team of the year: Tamika Upton, Jakiya Whitfield, Isabelle Kelly, Mele Hufanga, Julia Robinson, Tarryn Aiken, Ali Brigginshaw, Shannon Mato, Destiny Brill, Sarah Togatuki, Yasmin Clydsdale, Olivia Kernick, Simaima Taufa.