The brutal self appraisal that keeps superstar grounded
For a superstar who has been chased by teams, countries and codes since his early teens, Kalyn Ponga is remarkably self-effacing.
The Newcastle and Queensland superstar Kalyn Ponga has cast self doubts over his remarkable ability by declaring he isn't "good enough" and will "never be great".
Ponga, still just 22, has a rotator cuff injury and hopes to return for the Knights between rounds four and six.
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"I never see myself as being good enough. That mindset always makes me want to be better," Ponga said.
"When you go to training, if you think you're killing it then you've probably put a lid on what you can achieve.
"I never wake up thinking I'm 'The Man'. That closes your mindset.
"I just have that mindset of 'you're never great'. That keeps me grounded. Being humble in that sense, I think, is important. I'm always hoping to be better, always looking to be better, and achieve new things.
"And it is also a team sport. It's not all about you, it's about your teammates and making you better and making them better.
"I want that mindset of always wanting to be better. That was something I had as a kid, it's good. I just want to be better than I was the year before, the week before, the day before.
"The season isn't that far away so you can't afford to waste any days."
Despite his youth, Ponga invests considerable time into the mental side of rugby league.
"I think mindfulness and the mental aspect of the game is important," he said.
"I think our culture at the Knights at the moment has that mindset - Adsy's (coach Adam O'Brien) definitely brought that, he's also brought a lot of belief, but we're a group that's learning and evolving. Hopefully we can do something great this year.
"In saying that, I don't want to take away having fun and going out there and throwing the footy around.
"That's when I play my best footy, when I'm freer and not thinking about it too much. Finding that balance for me is important."
Ponga has returned on light duties as he counts down the days until he is back playing rugby league.
He injured his shoulder late last year and was ruled out of Queensland's historic series win over NSW.
"We're ticking boxes and training really hard to get back," he said.
"As long as I keep tracking the way I am, I hope to be on the field sooner rather than later."
Speculation surfaced earlier this month that Ponga may have an issue with new Queensland coach Paul Green.
Reports out of Queensland suggested a strained relationship between the pair was the reason Ponga quit North Queensland after the 2017 season to join Newcastle.
"I didn't hear about those (reports). I was a kid when I left the Cowboys. I'm for him, happy he's got the job and hopefully I get the opportunity to play underneath him and win the series with Queensland."
Asked was there an issue with Green, Ponga emphasised: "No, no, he's a good man."
Originally published as The brutal self appraisal that keeps superstar grounded