Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga said he was in the wrong as he broke his silence about what happened in a toilet cubicle with teammate Kurt Mann last year.
Ponga and Mann were not sanctioned by the NRL after they were filmed leaving a toilet together in a Newcastle pub last August.
The pair provided samples to NRL drug testers for an investigation by the governing body and Knights.
At the time, Ponga’s father Andre said his son had bought a home and was celebrating, but felt ill after drinking too much alcohol.
Ponga, who was sidelined due to concussion, was criticised for partying on the same night his teammates were trying to halt a late-season freefall.
“I was sick,” Ponga said on Monday. “The process of the whole integrity unit going through what they went through, and being through my concussion at that time, and not being able to play and show everyone that I do care about the club, was tough for me.
Kalyn Ponga has broken his silence about what really happened in a toilet cubicle last August.Credit:Getty
“[But] I have reflected upon my responsibilities as a leader. I have learnt some lessons from that time.
“I shouldn’t have been out or anything like that in the first place. I do support the boys – they know that. They know how much I support them at all times. I was in the wrong there.”
The Knights star cut short his season because of concussion.
Pressed on why Mann was in the cubicle with him, Ponga said: “He was there to help. Food that I had earlier … I can’t go back and change anything.
“The only thing I can do is live in the now. I can learn from that period of time. I can’t change it. It is about how you react and how you respond. I have reflected. I definitely have.”
Ponga said the extended time away from the game had helped him deal with his run of concussions, and he had completed all the contact work over the summer.
A calf niggle kept him on ice for Friday’s opening trial, but he is expected to play the first half against Parramatta on Friday in his new position of five-eighth.
Newcastle’s finals hopes will be largely determined by Ponga and the No.6 experiment. It was Ponga who floated the idea with coach Adam O’Brien towards the end of last season.
Ponga said he would not be fazed if he was targeted in defence, and it would be no different to being singled out when returning the ball from fullback.
Immortal and Knights legend Andrew Johns told the Herald over the weekend Ponga would have no issues with attacking in the halves, but defence would be the big test.
“I have enjoyed the challenge,” Ponga said of switching positions.
“That was the exciting part of coming back, just doing reps at five-eighth. ‘Jacko’ [Jackson Hastings] has been so good for me. He is such a loud, vocal controlling half.
“It allows me to play free. I think he is perfect for what this team needs. I want to hit the ground running and be the best I can be. But it is going to take time.
“This is an opportunity for me to grow as a player and that is what I am excited about.”
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